Leaders’ peace council wants Juvenile Justice Law revised; PNP official agrees-A A +A
Thursday, September 15, 2011
THE REGIONAL Peace and Order Council (RPOC) will push for an amendment of the Juvenile Justice Law, said Chairman Edgar Chatto after several calls from mayors and law enforcement agencies.
Chatto is currently the Bohol governor and said crimes involving minor suspects do not only happen in Cebu. He was interviewed after the recent RPOC meeting at the Capitol Social Hall.
He said RPOC will include the issue in their meetings.
He said he needs to also consult other government agencies so each member of the council will have their position on the amendment of the law.
Political leaders once again voiced out the need to re-visit and amend the law, following the gruesome killing of a pregnant mother and her five-year-old daughter by her 16-year-old son.
Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale and two Provincial Board members said they are in favor of amending Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006.
The officials’ reactions were sought after 16-year-old Odi (real name withheld) confessed to killing his pregnant mother, Virgindina, 39, and his half-sister Geraldine, 5, inside their home in Barangay Naalad, City of Naga last Thursday night.
PB Member Julian Daan said kids who are ages 15 to 16 are capable of committing crimes. They should be punished, he said.
PB Member Peter John Calderon, head of the committee of laws at the PB, said the law needs to be amended because there are lots of crimes that allegedly involved minors.
Under the current law, if the child is under 18, lawmakers can’t detain him or her.
After the incident in the City of Naga, the PB passed a resolution commending the Naga City police force for their swift resolution of the killing. It was sponsored by Daan.
The PB had already urged Congress to consider reports about the “improper, ineffective and inefficient” implementation of the law.
They believe there should be penalties for negligent parents of children who violated the law. This way, the parents would take upon themselves the responsibility of keeping their children away from crimes.
Former Cebu governor and now Rep. Pablo Garcia (Cebu Province, 2nd District) has filed a bill pushing for the amendment of the law.
A 15-year-old kid already knows what is right or wrong, a police official said.
Senior Supt. Patrocinio Comendador, the Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) director, said he is in favor of amending R.A. 9344.
“It’s a big help because the minors who are committing crimes will be minimized,” he said.
The police official was reacting to Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jesse Robredo, who asked the legislative branch to amend the law, which has been deemed to have contributed to the increasing number of crimes committed by minors.
RA 9344, whose principal author is Sen. Francis Pangilinan, sets at 15 the maximum age of exemption from criminal liability. Minors above 15 shall also be exempt from criminal liability and be subjected to an intervention program unless he or she “acted with discernment.”
When Comendador was still the head of the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) in 2007, the police official said he personally handed to Pangilinan his position paper against the law after a forum in a hotel in Cebu City.
He said the law “created a dilemma…for law enforcement officers who are in constant contact with society.”
RA 9344 contains the procedures that should be followed by a law enforcer in taking a child into custody.
Once a child is taken into custody and is determined to be 15 years old or below, authorities shall release him right away to the care of his parents, guardian, or nearest relative and inform the local social welfare officer who will determine the appropriate programs for the child in consultation with guardians.
If the child has no parents or his family refuses to take him, he may be released to a registered NGO or religious organization, barangay official or member of the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children, or the local Department Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) officer.
Children below 18 years old cannot be prosecuted for vagrancy, prostitution, mendicancy, and sniffing of rugby.
A child’s sentence is automatically suspended if he is found to be below 18 years old.
When he reaches 18, the court will determine whether to discharge him, execute the sentence or extend the suspension of the sentence until he reaches the age of 21.
Instead of being jailed, the child shall be placed under probation or placed in an agricultural camp or any training facility.
Female children in conflict with the law shall be separated from male children. Only female doctors, correction officers and social workers can handle them.
The care of a child in conflict with the law will be shouldered by parents or guardian or if not available, equally shared by the municipality, province and national government.
The law also prohibits authorities from subjecting a minor offender to physical, psychological and emotional abuse.
During his time as CCPO chief, Comendador said “a lot of criminal cases involved juvenile delinquents” based on the police crime statistics.
“While the intentions of the law are noble and redundant of the state policies and international standards in treatment of the child-in-conflict-with-the-law (CICL), it has nevertheless created a vortex where there is a need to balance state policy and common good,” he said.
Before the passage of the law, the kids aged nine years and below were not held criminally liable.
“Why raise (it to) fifteen? With the availability of the information at our fingertips nowadays, it is not surprising to know that children have more knowledge of their environment compared to the yesteryears,” he said.
The police official said there should have been a provision in the law directing the government to establish the diversionary facilities for the minor offenders before the law was fully implemented.
Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma has offered the services of the church groups to the relatives and friends of victims of violence.
“It is sad knowing that lives are cut off. I hope there would be a stop to the killings,” he told reporters.
The prelate was referring to the recent incident involving a teenager who robbed and killed his mother and half-sister as well as the case involving a nursing student who also killed his mother.
Palma said these incidents may be considered family-related issues, but these are also issues that affect the community.
“(We are offering) anything that we can do to help a family member, friends who are distressed because of the incidents,” he said.
“We would also like to offer prayers and try to be more sensitive with the problems or concerns of families,” he added.
As to the rising incidence of suicides, the archbishop said, “These incidents are a challenge to us to reach out to others and make sure that people again consider that life is very precious,” he added.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 15, 2011.