While some would say that the children are the future of our nation, others would probably suggest that they already play a vital role in the society as early as now. But the question is, would they still remain the hope of the society when some of them are in conflict with the law?

In 1979, the Regional Rehabilitation Center for the Youth (RRCY) started its operation as an institution mandated to provide intensive treatment in a residential setting for the rehabilitation of the children in conflict with the law (CICL) whose sentences have been suspended. It serves as a nurturing out-of-home placement for those who are in need of rehabilitation. This is in accordance with Presidential Decree No. 603 known as the Child and Youth Welfare Code of the Philippines and Republic Act No. 9344 or the Juvenile Justice System and Welfare Act of 2008 which provides that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) shall establish this rehabilitation facility.

Currently, the DSWD Field Office IX is operating its 5-hectare rehabilitation facility headed by Ma. Salome E. Mangubat at Anastacio, Polanco in the Province of Zamboanga del Norte. Mangubat serves as the family head of the 65 children mostly 16-17 years old in RRCY. According to her, most of the cases of their clients have something to do with crimes against property like robbery and theft. It is followed by crimes against persons like murder and rape and those cases with special laws involving the use and selling of illegal drugs, anti-carnapping, and violation of anti-endangered species, among others. She recalls that during the establishment of the said facility in 1979, only five children were initially admitted with two house parents. Today, there are 14 regular staff managing the center who are well-trained and competent with six house parents. Four of them were given by the Provincial Governor of ZDN upon the request of Mangubat. “I never expected that we would have four additional workers given by the governor. I only tried sending him a letter and eventually he fulfilled our request immediately,” said Mangubat. For her, one of the strengths of the center is its ability to effectively coordinate and partner with local government units (LGUs).

Furthermore, the center has 134-bed capacity higher than 50 being the standard requirement. “In terms of services, we continuously look for ways to provide better and effective services especially for case management,” said Mangubat.

The center conducts regular activities facilitated by different sections of the rehabilitation team to address the needs of the clients. Under the Home Life Section, they do daily Therapeutic Community (TC) and group sessions.  They also have sports and recreational activities. Furthermore, the center also teaches, monitors, and guides their clients on home life activities like doing household chores, building brotherhood relationships, and maintenance of cleanliness and orderliness within the facility.

A general assembly meeting is also regularly held to determine the issues and concerns among and between the clients. Meanwhile, the children also undergo psychological test, evaluation and counselling (one-on-one and group). Others are also referred for psychiatric evaluation.

The center likewise facilitates the appearances of CICL to court hearings. They have a “good and close coordination” with courts and legal counsels and has an ongoing advocacy to local social welfare offices, and other partners of the diversion program and release on recognizance of CICL whose cases are non-heinous in response to the fast increasing number of admissions in the center. The rehabilitation facility also conducts case conference and a dialogue with visiting parents.

Under the Manpower and Development Officer (MDO) Section, the center facilitates skills training to its clients in coordination with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). With this, the center would like to ensure that all CICL will be given a life skills training that could be useful upon their release from the center. “Actually, we started with these skills trainings in 1981, but there was no assessment yet during that time. It was only in 2015 when we had assessment in different qualifications like carpentry, masonry, tile setting, plumbing, and electrical installation and maintenance among others,” said Mangubat. Early this year, 20 CICL took the competency assessment in Electrical Installation and Maintenance NC II and 18 of them passed it.

Aside from these, the clients also participate in community clean-ups and yearly testimonial dinner. The latter activity aims to invite clients who were once detained in the center to share their success stories with the CICL to serve as inspiration. In terms of spiritual enhancement program, the center conducts daily rosary for Catholics and bible-sharing for Non-Catholics. Meanwhile for Muslims, they are being escorted every Friday to the mosque to pray.

As of November 25, the center already accomplished a percentage of 151.11% out of the annual target to serve 90 CICL. Mangubat added that “out of the target to discharge 30 CICL for the whole year, the center has already accomplished a percentage of 190%.”

RRCY, as mandated to provide CICL with the treatment and interventions to enable them to improve their social functioning with the end goal of reintegration to their families and communities, ensures that these children will live a life that is worth living. There is still hope for them. In fact, “when the world says give up, hope whispers, try it one more time.” Indeed, the children are the hope of this nation and with our continuous efforts to provide them the best facility for rehabilitation, there is no reason that one day, they shall rise again and be the change they want to see in other young children.