Cablegate: Child Prisoners Held in Adult Facilities in The

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) Summary: According to official and NGO sources,
approximately 1,500 children are currently incarcerated among the
adult inmate population in the Philippines. NGOs strongly
advocate that the GRP work to segregate children from the general
prison population. The GRP says it is trying to do this, but
notes that its capabilities are overstretched. NGOs are working
to speed up the handling of children's cases in order to reduce
the juvenile prison population, while the USG is sponsoring
programs focused on helping the GRP reduce prison overcrowding in
general. NGOs believe that children held in integrated
conditions with adults are highly vulnerable to sexual abuse,
recruitment into gangs, and forced labor. End Summary.

Child Prisoners in Adult Facilities

2. (U) According to official and NGO sources, approximately
1,500 children are currently incarcerated among the general adult
prisoner population in the Philippines. (Note: Authorities
segregate approximately an equal number of youths from the
general adult population in special juvenile prisons and
detention facilities.) The Bureau of Jail Management and
Penology (BJMP) reports that most youth inmates are aged 9-17.
Many of these youths come from poor families that live in urban
slums or rural villages and many are elementary school dropouts,
according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development
(DSWD). Many of the juvenile inmates have been convicted of
crimes involving common theft and substance abuse. However, some
of them face charges of more serious crimes, such as murder, rape
and robbery. Overcrowding and diseases are common conditions in
the jails. Most cells do not have windows and many children are
susceptible to skin diseases due to the poor ventilation.

3. (U) The Philippine government's "Child and Youth Welfare
Code" and the "Rules on the Apprehension, Investigation,
Prosecution and Rehabilitation of Youthful Offenders" provide the
primary source of protection for children in legal trouble. This
law and its rules outline the framework for the treatment of
children from the moment of their apprehension to the conclusion
of their rehabilitation or jail sentence. The law makes clear
that children from nine to 15 years old who are found guilty of a
crime should be committed to the custody of DSWD and housed in
proper, segregated rehabilitation facilities. Despite the law,
however, many children are housed in jails for adults and at
adult detention centers. For example, only 212 out of 1135 jails
run by BJMP segregate the minor population.

GRP Efforts to deal with Problem

4. (U) The GRP says it is trying to separate children from the
general adult population, but admits that its capabilities are
overstretched and that it cannot afford to house all children in
separate facilities. Despite these problems, the BJMP, DSWD, and
three local government units in Metro Manila run rehabilitation
centers as a way to cater to the special needs of the young,
especially those deemed most vulnerable. At these facilities,
children participate in activities such as counseling, and some
of these facilities provide non-formal education. The DSWD also
carries out community-based programs, which are meant to remove
children from the prison system when possible. DSWD has served
119 youthful offenders through this sort of intervention.
Children in this program are released from detention and
permitted to live with their parents or members of the community
while awaiting arraignment or trial. Some children who are
already on trial remain in the custody of their parents, although
social worker visits are legally-mandated in such cases.

5. (U) On December 20, 2004, the Supreme Court launched "Justice
on Wheels," a World Bank-funded project, that aims, in part, to
reduce delays in the resolution of cases through the use of
mobile courts that travel nationwide. As of April 15, 2005,
"Justice on Wheels" had heard 265 cases involving children,
resulting in the release of 167 youths. "Justice on Wheels"
referred an additional 98 cases for rehabilitation, probation or

NGO/USG Programs

6. (U) NGOs strongly advocate that the GRP work to segregate
children from the general prison population to the full extent
possible. They also work to release children from adult prisons
and to provide rehabilitation programs. To supplement the
limited number of court-appointed social workers, for example,
People's Recovery Empowerment Development Assistance Foundation
(Preda), an NGO, recruits students from law schools and social
work departments in Metro Manila colleges to work on child-
related cases. In cases where children are jailed in disregard
of legal procedures, Preda asks the judge to drop charges or
release the child to its care while he or she awaits trial.
Another NGO, Kokkyo naki Kodomotachi (KnK), provides programs for
children, but concentrates on 17 year olds whose cases involve
serious crimes. KnK provides a home for approximately 25
children in its "House for Youth," where it provides medical
care, counseling and education. Overall, in 2004, KnK helped
rescue 130 children from jails.

7. (U) The USG is working to help the GRP reduce prison
overcrowding in general. USAID, for example, supports The Asia
Foundation's Jail Decongestion Project. TAF estimates that
Philippine jails are operating at 135-172 percent above capacity.
Overcrowding is exacerbated by the lack of adequate legal
representation available to the accused, particularly those who
are indigent. Between November 2003 and March 2005, USAID-funded
legal counseling resulted in the release of 1,221 prisoners, who
had already served their time. (Note: Many of these prisoners
were never convicted, but had already served longer than the
maximum sentence they would have received if they had been


8. (U) The problem of children held in adult facilities is a
serious one. NGOs believe that these children are highly
vulnerable to sexual abuse, recruitment into gangs, and forced
labor, although there are no statistics available. The GRP is
aware that current practices are harmful to children, and that it
needs to do more to protect children and segregate them from the
rest of the inmate population. As reviewed above, NGOs are doing
some positive work in this area, as is the U.S.-supported prison
decongestion project with TAF. Mission will continue to review
possible ways that it can assist the GRP and NGOs in tackling
this problem.

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