DAVAO CITY, Philippines – A child rights advocate here has reiterated its opposition to repeal the set minimum age of criminal responsibility under the Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006.
Jaziel Sinadjan, speaking for Davao Act 4 Children’s Rights (DOACT), said that the proposed amendment of the existing law will “never be a solution to teach children to have a sense of accountability” at a young age.
Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, stated that children 15-years old and below are exempted from criminal liability while those aged 15 to 18 are exempted from criminal liability but will have to be subjected to an intervention program.
On September, Senate President Vicente Sotto III filed Senate Bill 2026 to amend provisions of Republic Act 9344 seeking to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 13 years old “to adapt to changing times.”
But Sinadjan said the proposed amendment still will never solve the continuing rise of number with the children in conflict with law “since the law itself is never implemented effectively.”
“Many of our law enforcers are ignorant of our own law and the protection of the children. With this, we suggest that they first undergo training that will enhance with capacity and not just to amend it” said Sinadjan.
The Philippines is among with the country who has the lowest age of criminal responsibility that contradicted to the UN Guidelines for Action on Children in the Criminal Justice System which defines juvenile as “every person under the age of 18.”
In 2013, an amendment to the law through Republic Act 10639 states that children aged 12 to 15 who were involved in serious crimes “shall be mandatorily placed at the Intensive Juvenile Intervention and Support Center, which is located within youth facilities called “Bahay Pag-asa” (House of Hope)”.
Addressing roots cause
Sinadjan said that aside from giving the law enforcers the training and knowledge in the implementation of the law, they should also “need to take a look and understand the personal background of the child.”
“Though we consider RA 9344 as a restorative justice for children, we urged lawmakers to take full consideration on the children’s emotional aspect and the factors of their decision making” added Sinadjan.
He also pointed out that majority of the children who are in conflict with the law were only victims of poverty and other societal issues. These factors, he said, made children vulnerable to engage in criminality as they were forced to survive.
“The authorities might look into consideration in giving livelihood assistance to parents and followed up with regular assessments. Since poverty is still the number one reason why people tend to engage in an illegal act, the best thing to do is to address poverty” said Sinadjan.
In Davao City, the documented cases of juvenile delinquent has decreased from 493 in 2017 and around 200 in 2018, citing records from the PNP. (davaotoday.com)