Everyone needs a second chance. Others may need a longer reflection for either a third or fourth chance, and it is but right to hold on.
“Tata” was accused of murder and attempted murder. Considered as minor at the time of the commission of the offenses, he was ordered to undergo rehabilitation at the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Regional Rehabilitation Center for Youth (RRCY) on July 10, 2019, as he was referred by the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office (MSWDO) of Trento, Agusan del Sur (ADS). As per Republic Act 9344, or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, cases of Children in Conflict with the Law (CICL) are pronounced as suspended sentences and are ordered to continue rehabilitation in a government center until fully rehabilitated.
Tata’s journey in the center was never easy. After three days from his admission date, he attempted to escape and leave the center Without Permission (LWOP) together with two other clients. Fortunately, they were retrieved by the center staff on the same day. He was once again caught leaving without permission (LWOP) on July 24, 2019 together with other residents but they were retrieved by a houseparent. Aside from LWOP, Tata had numerous violations against the center’s policy such as committing fist fights against his co-residents, smoking cigarettes/tobacco, and being one of the leaders in a gang created in the center. In response to the violations he committed, he underwent intensive counseling/dialogue with the handling Social Worker, individual and group sessions with the Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) members, case conference with the local government unit social worker and client’s mother, and many others.
With the different interventions and engagements, he was able to realize his mistakes and promised to change himself for the better and for him to successfully complete his rehabilitation in the center. He sincerely asked for an apology and showed interest to continue the plan of care afforded to him.
Today, Tata continues to pursue his studies as he is now in Grade 11 at the Patin-ay National High School (PNHS), studying through blended learning under Automotive strand. He now shows interest to learn as manifested by his regular attendance in his classes and timely submission of modules. When he has difficulty in his subjects, he asks for assistance from his teacher, or those who work at the center. He is also behaving well in class by listening to the discussions and avoiding having unnecessary conversation with his co-learners during classes as per school records. Tata is proud of himself since he only finished Grade 4 prior to his rehabilitation at the center. Through the Alternative Learning System (ALS) in RRCY, he was able to finish elementary and high school.
In addition, Tata acquired productivity skills such as Beads and Accessories Making and Massage Therapy. The skills he acquired are useful to land him a decent source of income in the future. In addition, he is one of the residents who excels in gardening and regularly generates income from it. In fact, he has been recognized as “the resident who has an outstanding garden plot” and was given an award for it.
Tata avoids the negative influence by focusing on his assigned tasks which is taking charge of the inventory of their utensils, which he does regularly. He is also commended for his initiative of helping his co-residents in taking care of the wash area. He observes the agreement reached during individual sessions and case conferences. He is now careful and avoids committing violations against the center’s policies since July 27, 2022.
Tata appreciated and embraced protective behaviors and has since been a responsible resident since going through the individual and group sessions such as the Danger and Negative Effects of Physical Violence, Harmful Effects of Smoking Tobacco, Resisting Negative Peer Pressure, Improving Decision-Making Skills, Anger Management Sessions, Stop Bullying, and many others.
Moreover, he has developed character strengths based on his profound love for God, love for self, love for others, and love for country and environment molded through the Character-Building Program (CBP) conducted at the center. His spiritual functioning has improved as manifested by his will to lead during prayer sessions as compared before.
Tata’s social skills and self-esteem have elevated through the socio-cultural activities in the center such as Buwan ng Wika, Nutrition Month, Mental Health Awareness Celebration, Children’s Month, Parent and Child Encounter, sports fest, and year end socialization. Moreover, he was among the selected residents who played during a basketball game in Butuan City in celebration of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Consciousness Week in 2022. Though they lost the game, he was happy and grateful for the opportunity to play basketball in Butuan City and to contribute to his team. His sense of sportsmanship and camaraderie were observed during the game by accepting wholeheartedly their defeat. As a result of the changes manifested in his demeanor and his ways at the center, Tata is now assessed as rehabilitated.
Tata is an epitome of tenacity and hope. His life is a constant reminder to everyone that opportunities come, all you need to do is to grab the right ones. The Multi-Disciplinary Team members of RRCY Caraga never gave up on Tata and he did not give up on them either.
His story is a testimony on the positive impact of R.A. 9344 which has ensured the creation of a child-friendly justice system focused on rehabilitation and restoration rather than punishment. Tata, as of the moment, is still a work in progress and is now looking forward to being reunited with his family and community soon. (DSWD-Caraga/PIA-Agusan del Sur)