MANILA, MAY 8, 2007 (Office  of the Press Secretary, Malacanang)  President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered today the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to accommodate youth offenders in its 30-year-old National Training School for Boys in Tanay, Rizal so that they could continue their studies and even engage in livelihood programs while in jail.

The President issued the directive to DSWD Secretary Esperanza Cabral when she visited the newly built Center for Restorative Activities Development and Learning Experiences (CRADLE) at Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan, Taguig City this morning.

Some 160 youth offenders, also known as Children in Conflict with the Law (CICL), are presently housed at the 800-capacity CRADLE. The Tanay boys' facility, on the other hand, houses 350 former CICLs.

The CRADLE has a total of 18 "dormitories" spread out over its four floors. Each dorm contains a maximum of 25 people, while city and municipal jails lump together up to 50 jailbirds in hot, cramped jail cells.

"Mas malaki dito," one CICL told the President who went around the dorms not only to inspect the CRADLE's facilities, but also to greet and interview the child offenders herself.

The CRADLE was originally built for detainees of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) who were under the custody of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).

It was later converted into the CICL's halfway home with the passage on April 23, 2006 of Republic Act 9344, the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act which calls for the separation of child offenders from jaded adult criminals.

The facility is manned by 39 jail officers who perform custodial functions over the CICLs at eight jail officers per shift. Six social workers and 15 non-government organizations also help out in the "various programs aimed at promoting and protecting the physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social well-being of the CICL."

In cooperation with the Department of Education, the CRADLE offers non-formal education to the youth offenders whose cases run the gamut of "adult" cases, including murder, rape, robbery in band, theft, and others.

The President was toured around the facility by BJMP Jail Warden Supt. Amelia Talento, Department of Interior and Local Governments Secretary Ronaldo Puno, and Taguig Mayor Freddie Tinga, among others.

TOP Gov't confident of attaining 100% electrification by 2008

With the country’s expanded rural electrification program reaching the 95.26 percent level as of the first quarter of this year, the Arroyo administration is confident that its target of energizing all of the 41,945 barangays nationwide will be attained by 2008.

According to the Department of Energy (DOE), a total of 39,955 barangays across the country now have access to electricity services, leaving just 1,990 more barangays still to be energized.

Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla said the government’s expanded rural electrification program has improved significantly under the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Of the 1,990 barangays still waiting for electricity, 1,106 barangays have been programmed for electrification this year and the rest in 2008 to achieve 100 percent energization, the DOE said.

Among the latest barangays to be covered by the electrification program was Barangay Balimbingan in Tukuran, Zamboanga del Sur.

The energization of the remote barangay was made possible through the Alliance for Mindanao Off-grid Renewable Energy (AMORE) Program.

The DOE said Barangay Balimbingan is "populated by the poorest of the poor" and it takes more than three hours to reach it by foot from the center of the town.

AMORE is a cooperative program of the DOE, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Mirant Philippines Foundation, Winrock International,and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

To mark the attainment of the 95.26 percent barangay electrification level, President Arroyo led the ceremonial switch-on of the 39,955 energized barangays in Malacanang last May 4.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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