KORONADAL CITY, South Cotabato — The newly-installed regional director of Department of Social Welfare and Development in Central Mindanao vowed Monday to strengthen the government’s efforts in protecting the rights of children facing criminal charges as he urged for immediate release of budget allocation next year for the construction of Bahay Pag-asa, an intervention facility where minors are facing charges sent for rehabilitation.

Speaking with workers of Regional Juvenile Justice Welfare Council late last week at EMR Center here, DSWD-12 director Cezario Joel Espejo said the construction of additional centers will provide minor offenders comfortable and safe facilities, and appropriate interventions while the cases are on trial. 

At the same time, Dir. Espejo asked the RJJWC secretariat to fast tract and monitor all the documents needed for the physical transfer of children to Bahay Pag-Asa and DSWD centers. 

Under Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, “a child 15 years of age or under at the time of the commission of serious crimes like rape, murder and homicide shall be exempt from criminal liability.” Meaning, instead of serving jail time, children will go through a reformation program.

The law states the child will undergo an intervention program by government agencies. A child above 15 years but below 18 years of age shall likewise be exempt from criminal liability and be subjected to an intervention program, unless he or she has “acted with discernment.”

Social workers are tasked and mandated to determine whether or not a minor offender acted with discernment in allegedly committing the crime.  (DSWD-12)