In 2003, the United States' Department of State released a report on the abhorrent conditions of the penitentiary facilities in the Philippines. Overcrowded, undermanned and rotting, these jails were deemed by the US State Department to be a violation in human rights.
In 2005, a documentary film directed by Ditsi Carolino entitled Bunso (Youngest Child) both wowed and shocked audiences in film festivals in both Europea nd North America. The subject of the film is the plit of children thrown into the inhuman conditions of Philippine jails.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has these facts to say about this deplorable situation, where the lack of a proper juvenile judicial system in the Philippines has forced children to share jail cells with adults.
Since 1995, over 50,000 children have been jailed in the Philippines.
Approximately 28 children are taken in by the police every single day. That means more than one child is arrested every hour.
Of the children made to spend some time in jail, 8 out of 10 are considered first-time offenders, meaning it is their first time being on the wrong side of the law.
Statistics have shown that if a first-time offender is not made to spend time inside an adult jail, he or she is eight times more likely to improve him- or herself and become a more productive citizen than a child who had to be deleted in an adult jail.
What were those kids who had a brush with the law in jail for in the first place? Mostly, the crimes they have committed are petty offsets: petty thievery, loitering, caught selling drugs and other such offsets. But if one looked closely, however, what would be the undering cause that drve these kids to committing crimes they should not have otherwise done?
The answer to this is poverty.
Instead of being in school or at play, most of the children who end up in jail did what they did because they needed to feed themselves or their siblings, or a parent who could not work for one reason or another.
Whatever the reason why a child is in jail, the fact is that a prison cell is no place for a child to be in. Especially, not in a prison cell in the Philippines.
Sadly, as long as poverty is prevalent in the Philippines, a child will do anything just to be able to survive. Such means of survival may end up with the child landing in jail. Every Filipino child who is in danger of such a fate desires to be rescued and be given a chance at a better life.