Senator Win Gatchalian on Wednesday urged the members of the bicameral conference committee for the 2019 General Appropriations Act to allot funding for the construction of 56 additional Bahay Pag-asa (BPA) centers nationwide.
Gatchalian made the call after the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council (JJWC) revealed that there are only 58 operational BPAs in the country. The Juvenile Justice Welfare Act of 2006 (Republic Act No. 9344) calls for the operation of at least 114 BPAs: one for each province and highly urbanized city (HUC).
“Based on the estimates shared by the JJWC, it would only take P840 million to construct the remaining needed BPAs and another P1.22 billion for the annual operational costs of all 114 when the remaining 56 are built, for a total of P2.06 billion,” he said.
Gatchalian added that if LGUs do not have enough funds to construct BPAs, the national government should step in. Under RA 9344, the centers are to be established and run by local government units.
“I am sure we can find the money to fund the construction and operation of the required 114 BPAs. P2.06 billion is minuscule compared to the questionable P75 billion insertion for DPWH projects which was deleted by the Senate in its version of the 2019 budget,” he said.
The lawmaker stressed that strengthening the national BPA network is a better alternative in providing intervention programs for children in conflict with the law (CICL) rather than lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR). He also reiterated that the focus of the government “should be on addressing issues that cause CICL to commit offenses, using more constructive and nurturing means than outright imprisonment.”
“There are many success stories of children being rehabilitated during their stay in BPAs. Ang kailangan lang ay may sapat na pondo at sapat na staff ang pasilidad para maayos ang pamamalakad. This is the best way to help these children get their lives back on track,” he said.
According to the JJWC, BPAs are 24-hour caring institutions for children with pending cases in court or those children committed by court who are above 12 but below 15 years who committed serious crimes as enumerated in Republic Act 10630 or are repeat offenders. Part of the features of a BPA is an intensive juvenile intervention and support center, which will cater to CICLs.
During Gatchalian’s last term as mayor of Valenzuela City in 2013, the city government inaugurated the Bahay Pag-asa ng Valenzuela. To date, Valenzuela City is only one of two cities in Metro Manila with an accredited BPA.