Operation Second Chance

Posted: January 21, 2013 in Uncategorized
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In March 14, 2012, one hundred and seventy detainees held one of their guards captive for almost three hours. The guard, JO1 Rex Becalas, was detained in the toilet. The detainees demanded replacement of eight guards and asked for unlimited visitors. They claimed that the guards were maltreating them. An investigation ensued, and eight guards were relieved and the warden was re-assigned elsewhere. These detainees were minors, and the facility was Operation Second Chance. (http://www.sunstar.com.ph/cebu/local-news/2012/03/14/minors-lock-guard-restroom-211114, accessed: January 14, 2013)

            Two students from ETCP were given a chance to look for a facility that would be able to cater to special needs or specific needs of the society and they chose to study a rehabilitation center for child offenders. In line with this research work, the researchers were able to get in contact with the jail warden, Merlinda Metante, as this rehabilitation center is still a prison, even if visitors such as the researchers were allowed to get in even without a bag inspection.

            The goal of this paper is first, to be able to gather pertinent information regarding the facility being studied. Second, find the mission and vision of the said facility to create an awareness of why they exist and why they do what they do. Third, to discover the qualifications of an individual who would be admitted (or detained) in the facility. Lastly, to be able to create an opening for possible future ministry work. Personally, the researchers discussed among themselves by asking the question, “How can the school or the church help or create an impact to this organization?”

History

            In 1998, Margot Osmeña, then the first lady of Cebu City, partnered with Rotary Club of Lahug. proposed of having in the city a juvenile detention center that could be separately house the growing number of minor inmates in Bagong Buhay Rehabilitation Center (BBRC) also known as Cebu City jail back then. This is because there were children who run afoul with the law and are imprisoned along the adult inmates in BBRC. Back then, youth in conflict with the law undergo the same processes and trials that adults undergo except that for the latter, sentences could be suspended. Although some courts have been designated as juvenile courts, they were not exclusively for juveniles. There is no legal provision for physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of youth in conflict with the law who are under rehabilitation on suspended sentence. Thus, a need for a facility for youth in conflict in the law was much needed in Cebu. The facility became operational in August 2002.

 

Current Condition

            In 2006, the legislative body of the Philippines created Republic Act 9344 which is the Juvenile Justice and Welfare system. This law aims to protect the rights of the child in the event that the child (referring to a person under the age of eighteen) commits a criminal offense is sheltered. This said law also speaks about “intervention”, or the series of activities which are designed to address issues that caused the child to commit an offense. It may take the form of an individualized treatment program which may include counseling, skills training, education, and other activities that will enhance his/her psychological, emotional and psycho-social well-being.

The Cebu City “Operation Second Chance” Center is a center for minors who are in conflict with the law. They stay in that place for a matter of months depending on the crime that they have committed. The government gives funds to the center for the inmates’ daily needs such as food, drinking water, and hygiene kit (with soap, shampoo, and toothpaste). The building was built by the government exclusively for this purpose; to keep these young people from doing crimes on the streets and to show them the value of life and how they should live life accordingly.

 

Mission and Vision

The mission and vision of Operation Second Chance is in line with its mother organization, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology. The mission statement is placed in a wall in the administrative office which states: “The Bureau aims to enhance public safety by providing humane safekeeping and development of inmates in all district, city and municipal jails.” The vision is also placed in the wall near the mission statement which says, “The BJMP envisions itself as a dynamic institution highly regarded for its sustained humane safekeeping and development of inmates.”

Although a different board runs Operation Second Chance, this center is still under the BJMP and thus submits to the said organization when it comes to running their day to day operation. The jail guards are provided for by the BJMP and the facility is actually near the CPDRC (Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center), which is a walking distance from Operation Second Chance. It is said that the jail guards underwent seminars on handling child offenders and are knowledgeable on what they can and cannot do.

Scope of the Organization

            There are currently more than 150 minor offenders who are housed in the facility. Operation Second Chance aims to rehabilitate the child at risk (term used for minor offenders) through basic literacy that they could study while they are in house. A lot of these offenders get a chance to finish their basic education (which is from grade one to grade six) through the ALS (Alternative Learning System) and learn basic skills (such as carpentry, forestry, wood working and other skill – oriented learning) through the Don Bosco Skills training program. There are currently eleven house parents who would rotate their shifts in order to provide parental counselling and advice to the detainees. The house parents provide daily supervision to the children and they are the role models who offer guidance, discipline and supposedly, they are also to teach spiritual discipline to the children. There are also two social workers to follow up as soon as the children leave the facilities and integrate themselves into society.

Qualifications of a Child at Risk (or minor offenders)

            “Child at Risk” refers to a child, below eighteen years of age, who is vulnerable to and at the risk of committing criminal offenses because of personal, family and social circumstances, such as, but not limited to, the following:

(1) being abused by any person through sexual, physical, psychological, mental, economic or any other means and the parents or guardian refuse, are unwilling, or unable to provide protection for the child;

(2) being exploited including sexually or economically;

(3) being abandoned or neglected, and after diligent search and inquiry, the parent or guardian cannot be found;

(4) coming from a dysfunctional or broken family or without a parent or guardian;

(5) being out of school;

(6) being a streetchild;

(7) being a member of a gang;

(8) living in a community with a high level of criminality or drug abuse; and

(9) living in situations of armed conflict.

(source: http://www.lawphil.net/statutes/repacts/ra2006/ra_9344_2006.html, accessed: January 7, 2013)

The warden said that the qualifications of minor offenders are in the Juvenile Justice and Welfare System, or RA 9344. The process of transferring a child from the city jail to the said facility is when the child’s age is determined, the police station or the jail would inform DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) within 24 hours regarding the case of the child and they would transfer the child to Operation Second Chance immediately. Also, if the family court decides to try a person as a minor offender, the child is given to Operation Second Chance.

 Concerns/Problems Involved

 The researchers studied the concerns of the organization. First, determining a person’s age if indeed the person is a minor is supposed to be in favour of the child (according to the law) but the truth is, it would really depend on the arresting officer. A lot of the detainees claim to be minors (of 16 or 17 years of age) but truth is, they looked young and without a birth certificate or parents to prove that indeed they are minors. Most of them are not (according to the jail guards but this is subject to verification and discussion). Second, most of the offenders do not have families to return home to when they are released so they are turned over to DSWD but no family would want to adopt a minor offender especially at 15 to 17 years old. Third, if the child has a family, usually they are not accepted again or are not welcome in their own homes thus the child goes back to the streets or to the gangs. Fourth, Spiritual transformation is not an emphasis even if they attend mass every Sunday so the tendency of going back to the same problem persists. Lastly, the lack of concern from Christian organizations (this is our own view) in terms of supporting volunteer work and really taking care of the children at risk is very minimal or none at all. We need to get involved.

Conclusion

Going back to the question we asked ourselves earlier, how can the school or the church help or create an impact to this organization? The school can help by educating their own students regarding Operation Second Chance. It would be good if the school can partner with the facility to send interns to teach not just skills, but in knowing God. The church can help by sponsoring the volunteers who go to the facility and help out by raising support for food not just for the stomachs but Bibles as well. The school and the church can also partner with one another in terms of being visible in the facility.

Individually, we can take time to visit the children at risk and learn from them as well. We can create awareness with our circle of friends and influence others to take active participation by creating a project (probably once a month) in visiting the detainees. We can also strengthen community projects which aim to build up family values to minimize children at risk. We can pray and ask God to guide us where we can maximize the help we can give. 

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