Few days ago, the Senate approved on final reading a bill amending Republic Act No. 9344, otherwise known as the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, in order to improve its implementation. I AM IN FAVOR OF THIS GREAT ACT BY OUR LAWMAKERS.
We all know that Republic Act No. 9344 has been intended to protect the welfare of children in conflict with the law, majority of who are guilty of petty crimes such as petty theft, vagrancy and sniffing glue. Prior to the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, children in conflict with the law were thrown into the same prison cells as hardened criminals. Studies show that most of them were first-time offenders, while eight percent committed crimes against property. These children are then doomed to a life of crime, rending them victims of a judicial system that inadvertently breeds criminals.
With the implementation of RA 9344, children in conflict with the law are being provided with intervention programs instead of being thrown into jail. But like any other law, certain provisions of RA 9344 need to be improved. Now, Senate Bill No. 3324 amended Republic Act No. 9344, NOT because it wants to revise it, but simply because it wants to clarify the meaning of “fifteen years of age,” the age of criminal responsibility. Current misinterpretation leads to youth offenders under 15 years old being released when they should instead be subject to formal proceedings.
Under the proposed measure, children 15 years old and under at the time of the commission of the crime, will be exempted from criminal liability. However, these minors can face civil liabilities in accordance with existing laws.
Children who are 15 years of age or under shall not be exempt from civil liabilities. Liability of parents for quasi-delicts and felonies committed by their minor children is direct and primary and not subsidiary. This means that the parents or guardians exercising parental authority over their children shall be responsible for the restitution, reparation and indemnification for consequential damages, as the case may be. If the child committed theft, he or she is obliged to return the thing he or she has stolen. If it is not possible to return what he or she has stolen, the parents should pay the amount equivalent to what the child has stolen.
Children under this category shall be immediately released to the custody of his or her parents or guardians, or in the absence thereof, the child’s nearest relative. Furthermore, children who are 15 years old or below shall be subjected to a community-based intervention program supervised by the local social welfare and development officer, unless the best interest of the child requires the referral of the child to a youth care facility or Bahay Pag-Asa managed by the DSWD, LGU’s or licensed and/or accredited NGOs monitored by the DSWD. The measure also proposes that repeat offenders, or children who have committed crimes more than three times, be considered as neglected children and, as such, must undergo intervention programs supervised by the local social welfare and development officers.
Meanwhile, the measure also states that children 15 years old or below who committed heinous crimes such as rape and murder shall be mandatorily placed in a special facility within the youth care facility or Bahay Pag-Asa called the Intensive Juvenile Intervention and Support Center.
The proposed legislation also provides the maximum penalty for those who exploit children such as syndicates, for the commission of criminal offenses. This bill also requires that discernment be alleged in the information in a criminal case involving children in conflict with the law. Now, with all these features of the amendment of the law, I say I am in favor of such great move by our respected lawmakers. Thank you and have a good day! —–End—–
AMENDMENTS IN THE JUVENILE JUSTICE & WELFARE ACT OF 2006 (NEGATIVE SIDE/ ANTI – FOR DEBATE)
Few months ago, the House of Representatives passed on third and final reading House Bill 6052 proposing to lower the age of criminal liability from 15 to 12 years old. The bill aims to amend Republic Act 9344, the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, passed six years ago. I AM NOT IN FAVOR OF SUCH MOVE BY OUR LAWMAKERS. My stand is not to amend the Juvenile Justice Law but call for its effective implementation instead. Lowering the age of criminal responsibility constitutes a grave breach on the convention on the rights of the child to which the Philippines has ratified and acceded.
Our country must always be guided by the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice, more commonly known as the “Beijing Rules”, which is a framework to consider in determining the age of criminal responsibility. The Beijing Rules recommends that the minimum age of criminal responsibility “shall not be fixed at too low an age level, bearing in mind the facts of emotional, mental and intellectual maturity.” Our opponents contend that the increasing number of children involved in heinous crimes as the primary reason for amending the law.
But the results of an online poll on the House of Representatives’ website show that public opinion is on civil society’s side, with the majority not in favor of the amendment. Online House poll shows majority disagree with lowering the age of criminal liability. Asked if lowering the age of criminal responsibility is a justifiable policy, 75 percent of those who responded said no, while only 25 percent agreed with the proposal. The international community supports the same position.
In the recent United Nations’ Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (UPR) dialogue in Geneva, a number of countries recommended implementing RA 9344 instead of amending it. Norway, in particular, recommended that the Philippines “take immediate measures to fully implement the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006.” Germany, meanwhile, asked the Philippines to “ensure that the age of criminal responsibility is not lowered.” It also recommended for the improvement of prison conditions to assure the separation of juvenile detainees from adult prisoners.
Ecuador seconded Germany’s motion. The inhumane conditions of children-in-conflict with the law cannot be denied from the eyes of the international community. Hence, during the UPR, most recommendations by foreign countries to the Philippine government were addressed to ensuring that any forms of torture and corporal punishment (against children) should be looked into. Ladies and gentlemen, let me reiterate my stand: I AM NOT IN FAVOR OF SUCH MOVE BY OUR LAWMAKERS. —–End—–