Children behind bars: an analysis of the implementation gap between law and practice of child detention in the Philippines
Thesis DisciplinePolitical Science
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis examines the policy implementation gap between the Philippines’ legal framework and the reality of its current practices in dealing with its detained children when in conflict with the law. The Philippines has been a State Party to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) since 1990, and enacted the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act (JJWA) in 2006 (as amended in 2013). Both the UNCRC and the JJWA establish expectations for protecting the rights of their children in conflict with the law. However, despite these legal mechanisms, cases of violations of children’s rights while in detention are still being reported. Critics argue that some detention are still “jail-like” condition, with unhygienic and overpopulated rooms, and the absence of programs necessary for child development and rehabilitation (Bochenek, 2016; Cullen, 2016) This thesis aims to identify the barriers to effective policy implementation and explain why these barriers persist.
To meet this objective, firstly, the thesis reports on a desk-based literature review of the international legal instruments and related domestic policies in the Philippines, to identify the specific legal provisions which regulate child detention centres in the Philippines. Secondly, the thesis reports on in-depth interviews with national government officials, local public servants (social workers, and a family court judge), NGOs, and observations from child detention centres within Metro Manila.
The thesis argues that policies are already in place which are sufficient to protect child rights. However, there are significant problems with policy implementation, particularly at the local level. Analysis of the findings suggests that the barriers to effective implementation of the UNCRC and the JJWA in the Philippines include three factors: a) an apparent punitive culture, b) a politicization of the bureaucracy, and c) a larger socio-economic inequality problem of the Philippines.
This thesis concludes with recommendations for positive change, including public education programme to support a change in the general attitude of people towards awareness of the law and rights of children (which may take time), greater scrutiny and accountability in appointments to inhibit the politicization of policy implementation, and a more effective government intervention programs to support children living in poor and dysfunctional families. With these changes, it is argued the JJWA will become a more effective legal tool in protecting the rights and welfare of the children in detention. Otherwise, the JJWA will just remain on paper – in law, which is ineffective in practice in advancing the rights of children in detention.