MANILA, Sept. 19, 2011?An official of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines has called for further study on the proposal by some lawmakers to reduce the age of exemption for criminal liability of juvenile offenders from 15 to 9 years old.
Fr. Conegundo Garganta, executive secretary of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Youth stressed that lawmakers must rethink its policies in terms of defining the right age of minor offenders who can be held liable or responsible for an offense the minor will commit.
The lawmakers’ clamor for the age reduction of juvenile offenders was spawned by the proliferation of crimes in the metropolis perpetrated by ‘batang hamog’ or minor reprobates.
Garganta emphasized that lawmakers must study first the details of the Juvenile Justice Law, the behavior of the minor offenders and the different aspects that affect the issue.
He said that there is also a need for different agencies of government to rethink its guidelines and policies and that both government and society must come and work together to find a long term solution to the problem.
Garganta also expressed concern that there is a lack of facilities in the country for juvenile delinquents.
The government should first study the factors that trigger the behavior of these minor offenders, Garganta said.
He said workable programs for the rehabilitation of juvenile delinquents should be in place to properly address the problem.
Study root causes
Leans Peace Flores, spokesperson of Akap-Bata Partylist said that instead of suspending the law, the Senators as well as the entire national government must think further on how they can address root causes why children are being involved in these kinds of criminal acts and syndicates.
Flores wanted authorities to work on finding the leaders of syndicates who are using minors for their criminal acts and made them accountable instead.
He emphasized that poverty is the main issue why these minors end up working with the syndicates.
“The children in conflict with the law are being [victimized] twice by syndicate groups and of the extreme poverty brought by negligence of the government against them and their families,” explained Flores.
On the other hand, Akap-Bata said that it is too early to amend the law for it still has provisions that must be implemented.
“We agree that there must be an assessment on how the law has been implemented, to address some concerns over budget for the rehabilitation facilities and professionals, the actual implementation of the law, and what the real function of Juvenile Justice Welfare Committee is,” said the Child Rights’ advocate.
In a press release posted on the Senate website, Sen. Chiz Escudero said that exemption from criminal liability of children aged 15 years old and below has resulted in syndicates using 15 and 14 year old minors for criminal activities since they cannot be put to jail or held liable for any crimes.
Escudero is among lawmakers who are eager to reduce the age of liability for minor offenders to 9 years old.
Meanwhile, Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, the principal author of Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, expressed opposition to proposals in the Senate to reduce the age of criminal liability from 15 to 9 years old.
“We oppose the proposal to amend the law and bring the age of criminal liability back to nine years old. With all due respect to its proponent, reverting to the age of nine is a huge leap backwards in the campaign to uphold and defend the rights of children. In addition, the proposal ignores our country’s commitment to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,” said Pangilinan in a press release posted in the senate website. (Jandel Posion)