How do you solve a problem like the Manila Youth Recreational Center??

November 10, 2018

Incidents of mass escape happening at the Manila Youth Recreational Center (MYRC)  in  Arroceros, Manila over and over again should be a real cause for worry.

Twice in a span of a little over two weeks, youth offenders escaped from the custody of the  MYRC in batches. Just this week, November 7 to be exact, reports had it that 11 girls escaped between 3 and 3:30 a.m.  Most of them are there as they face non-bailable drug-related cases and one of them is even said to be pregnant.

These youth offenders are said to be also facing various other kinds of charges like snatching and were able to escape by sawing the grills of their cell located at the second floor. Once outside, the girls were reportedly seen casually walking along Arroceros Street with no one pursuing them.

The officer-in-charge of the MYRC was allegedly also the OIC when another batch, consisting of 35 minors  -- all boys -- also bolted detention just last month. So far, reports say, only 12 have been brought back and that of the number, 11 were returned by their parents while one was arrested after getting involved in a holdup incident.

The boys, it was learned, are also facing different cases such as illegal possession of firearms, illegal drugs, gambling and snatching.  Again, the escape happened at around 3 a.m. and it is suspected that the kids might have gone through the fence at the back portion of the center near the Pasig River.      

In July 2015, then Councilor Ali Atienza (5th district) and incumbent Councilor Rod Lacsamana (2nd district) sought the help of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Department of Justice and the Philippine National Police after 14 youthful offenders also escaped from the MYRC.

The two aldermen were worried that the said offenders had cases as serious as robbery, drugs and murder and thus pose serious danger to innocent people.

Some of them, according to Atienza and Lacsamana then, have already turned or about to turn 18 and are therefore no longer minors and thus, should be committed to the city jail. However, they managed to escape by sawing off the iron bars of their detention cell.

Atienza said what worries him the most was the information they received that the youngsters were able to escape at around 11 p.m. Tuesday night by sawing off the steel bars which he said could not have taken place just overnight.

Under the law, minor offenders cannot be mixed with adults which is why they are kept at the MYRC. It is to protect them from adult, hardened criminals.

It will be recalled that in January of the same year, then DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman ordered the closure of the said reception center after reports came out on the alleged abuse and maltreatment of a 10-year-old boy-resident.   DSWD -- National Capital Region (DSWD-NCR) Field Office Director Alice Bonoan led a validating team that investigated the incident. The children-residents  there were thus transferred to other DSWD-licensed non-government organizations and DSWD- managed facilities.

Soliman then said the closure was done to give the City of Manila the time and space to repair and rehabilitate the center as well as enhance its capacity to care for the children.

Nothing had been heard of it since then -- whether or not any rehabilitation indeed took place and when it resumed operation -- until news of the said mass escape incidents happening one after another again took place.

Those who are kept at the MYRC may be just boys and girls but the crimes they have committed are definitely beyond their age. There’s no doubt that their being out there in the streets does pose real danger to innocent people.

The DSWD and the PNP should step in and do something before another mass escape takes place.

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