Police: More minors getting involved in crime

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Sunday, August 24, 2014


THE number of cases involving juvenile delinquents in Central Visayas increased from 2010 to 2013, data from the Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 showed.

Poverty, failure on child’s care and unsafe environment are recurring themes why children end up in conflict with the law, said SPO1 Rowena Parilla of PRO 7’s Women and Children Protection Desk (WCPD).

Children in conflict with the law cases


In the first half of this year, an average of 75 children a month was arrested by police in the region for committing different crimes, most of them petty offenses like theft and physical injuries. But there were others who were involved in more serious crimes like robbery and rape.

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Records from WCPD showed the number of youth offenders ballooned in 2010. It doubled by 82.75 percent, or 625 cases, compared to the same period in 2009, which only had 342 cases.

Juvenile delinquency went down in 2011 by 30.4 percent, with 435 cases.

Circumventing law

The number went up by 20.69 percent in 2012 with police arresting 525 minors.

In 2013, there were 788 cases involving youth offenders, or a jump of 50.10 percent from the year before.

For the first half of this year, police have arrested 455 minors. They project the number to surpass last year.

Criminal syndicates and lawless elements have found a way to continue their dirty work by exploiting minors who can’t be charged in court, Parilla said.

Republic Act 9344, also known as the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, and its amendment, RA 10630, exempts a 15-year-old child or younger from criminal responsibility.

Those who are older but under 18 are exempted unless they acted with discernment in committing a crime.

Under RA 10630, which President Benigno Aquino III approved last year, a child below 15 years old who has been arrested should be released to the custody of his or her parents or guardian.

But the minor must undergo a community-based intervention program, supervised by the local social welfare and development officer.

According to data provided by the WCPD, 129 minors were charged in court in 2013. Some 421 cases were referred to the intervention program, 191 were settled after the complainants didn’t press charges, and 47 were investigated.

In 2012, records showed 111 cases were filed against minors. Some 245 minors who were arrested were released, 136 cases were settled and 33 were investigated.

Call for amendment

Amid the rising trend of juvenile delinquents, some police officials are calling lawmakers to amend the law by lowering the age of criminal liability.

On the part of WCPD, Parilla said they are conducting awareness seminars in schools, neighborhoods and other places to strengthen family ties. They hope this will prevent minors from being exploited.

On one occasion, during a seminar with women, Parilla said most of them told her they had to leave their children to find work so they could put food on the table.

“Kay kung magsige daw sila og bantay sa ilang mga anak, unsa man ilang kan-on (They’d have nothing to eat if they just stayed at home to look after their children,” she said, adding most of these families come from depressed areas where safety and nutrition are not priorities.

Theft and robbery remain to be common crimes committed by minors because these are easy ways to get money, Parilla said. The minors are driven by poverty to commit crime in the first place, she said.

The dangers of the Internet that provides easy access to pornography also contribute to rape cases committed by minors, she said.

Violence on TV and movies, Parilla said, also help influence children to commit illegal activities.

Parilla said youth offenders placed in special facilities, such as Operation Second Chance in Barangay Kalunasan, Cebu City and the Regional Rehabilitation Center for Youth in Argao, Cebu, undergo productive activities.

These children, she said, can still turn their life around with the help of strong family support, good peer influence and community-oriented environment.

“Dapat ipa-feel nato nga (We should make them feel) they are of great help sa atoa og dili kanang maghatag og labad sa ulo (to us that they are not a burden to us),” Parilla said.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 24, 2014.

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