To our distinguished guests, our hardworking and active partners in the Local Government Unit of Cauayan City, to our dedicated and committed public servants and also to our generous donors  and to those who in one way or another had contributed to the realization of the establishment of this “Bahay Pag-asa”, a pleasant morning to one and all.

The best investment any nation can make is to invest in its youth in order to secure a brighter future. And we cannot deny the fact that our country has an undeniable love for children. Needless to say, the youth are considered to be the hope of the nation.

However, we cannot hide the truth that the increasing numbers of Children-In-Conflict with the Law (CICL) becomes an alarming problem of the society. Though extreme poverty appears to be the primary cause of juvenile criminality, there are as well a number of causes that account for this problem such as dysfunctional or disintegrated families where the parents are separated, solo-parent families where one parent is either deceased or working abroad, poor child- rearing practices, negligent or abusive parenting, incidences of family or domestic violence and negative peer group pressures.

These CICLs are being protected by Republic Act 9344 or known as “The Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act”. This law mandates age-appropriate measures for handling youth offenders, knowing that putting children in the same jail as hardened criminals, where they will be vulnerable to abuse, will be to victimize them for the rest of their lives and eliminate all hopes of reforming children in conflict with the law.

With the absence of a juvenile justice system, this means that children in conflict with the law (CICLs) as young as 12 will be susceptible to the same judgment and punishment under the law as 30- and 40-year-olds.

However, the law clearly states the exemption is from criminal liability but does not include exemption from civil liability, which shall be enforced in accordance with existing laws.

But for these minors, jail is not the answer. The Filipino child is not dispensable. Hence, as one of the measures so that these children need to be reformed and reintegrated as productive citizens is the establishment of centers such as “Bahay Pag-asa”.

Bahay Pag-asa serves as a temporary shelter for CILCs and as a drop-in and recreational facility for the youth aged 15 and below.  This will be a 24-hour facility to immediately accommodate the CICLs upon their apprehension by the authorities to ensure that their rights are safeguarded. Programs of the center will include productive activities such as livelihood and trainings, spiritual formation and life skills to provide CILCs better options to live and become more useful individuals when they will reintegrate in the community.

As such, Bahay Pag-asa as rehabilitative measures for our youth has the potential to restore these CICLs to the public sphere. Then, let us together allow this potential to be realized.

It is not yet too late. For the sake of our youth, we must take collective and collaborative efforts in fighting these children’s futures who are still have the capacity to change and seize positive opportunities.

Doing so will encourage them to value their own futures, thus becoming valuable contributors to the nation.

With that, thank you very much!

Mabuhay po tayong lahat!