MANILA, August 13, 2005
(STAR) President Arroyo ordered the justice department yesterday to review the cases of thousands of child offenders believed to be in adult jails, as highlighted in CNN reports this week.

Mrs. Arroyo said she had told Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez "to look into these cases of minors in prison that have come out in international television."

"We cannot say we can’t do anything about this. We can do something," Mrs. Arroyo said in a speech during the seventh anniversary of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption at Malacañang.

"We must give more justice to our minor offenders and juvenile delinquents," she said.

"Our treatment of them must follow our laws and the laws of the world," Mrs Arroyo said.

The President said young offenders should be kept in special welfare homes for children rather than be jailed with "hardened adult criminals" in ordinary prisons.

"Juvenile offenders go through trials like any adult but at the point of judgment, the judge will say you are committed to an institution," Mrs. Arroyo added.

The justice department should also look into releasing elderly prisoners who have been jailed for lengthy periods to ease pressure on congested prisons, she said.

"I hope that when they reach retirement age, they will also retire from prison. The jails are getting congested and I think those who already aged in prison have already paid for their offenses to society," Mrs. Arroyo said. However, the President said the release of septuagenarian prisoners may not be made automatic since some of them may no longer have family members to return to. — AFP, Aurea Calica

Noli: GMA and I will finish term By Manny Galvez The Philippine Star 08/13/2005

CABANATUAN CITY — Vice President Noli de Castro has assured residents of Nueva Ecija that he and President Arroyo will support them until their terms of office end in 2010.

No Philippine president has been more serious than Mrs. Arroyo about giving landless Filipinos a home, De Castro said Wednesday in a speech after which he awarded certificates of entitlement and land awards to 215 families who had settled in Barangay Camp Tinio here.

He said he and Mrs. Arroyo are working hard to achieve good governance for the people who most need their services.

Referring to insinuations that he was a "president-in-waiting" as impeachment hearings against Mrs. Arroyo are set to start next week, De Castro said he would continue to ignore political squabbles and "go on with my work."

"We will serve out our respective terms until 2010," he predicted.

De Castro said the Arroyo administration was not being distracted by allegations of poll fraud and irregularities and the reported involvement of the President’s relatives in jueteng payoffs.

The Vice President was welcomed by Cabanatuan City Mayor Cesar Vergara and Cabanatuan Gov. Tomas Joson III, who has openly expressed support for the Arroyo administration.

De Castro has been making his presence felt in Nueva Ecija lately, underlining Mrs. Arroyo’s absence in the province. Prior to the May 2004 presidential election, she visited the province more than 20 times to court political support there.

The President has since shied away from Nueva Ecija after she was beaten by her closest rival, the late actor Fernando Poe Jr., by more than 315,000 votes despite her alliance with the Joson family. De Castro was bested by Poe’s running mate, former senator Loren Legarda, by a 266,000-vote margin.

The land grant is part of Mrs. Arroyo’s goal of providing land to landless Filipinos. On June 30, 2003, she issued Proclamation 418, setting aside 38.91 hectares for 2,800 families in Camp Tinio, which is located in the eastern part of the military camp.

The families who received land grants settled within the camp and have tilled the land there since 1951.

De Castro later visited the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Palayan City, home of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division, where he was met by incoming Army chief Maj. Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr.

He told some 200 soldiers there that he will help them obtain housing loans from the government-owned financial institution Pag-IBIG Fund.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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