Mariel Mae Anne R. Macrohon
GANG-related violence is not new in Davao City. Almost every day you can read reports about a minor committing from simple to complex crimes.
What do you think is the reason behind why these? Who are the main characters in this deadly game of turf war? And why can’t the government and the police put this type of violence to end?
Fourteen-year-old Joshua admitted his involvement before in gangs. They had hazing like fraternities where aspirants are hit with wood, whipped with belts, slapped, and singed with cigarettes.
After the initiation, they go off to start riots.
They always bring around weapons —pana, sumpak, knives, ice picks, and rocks. According to Joshua, sometimes some of them survive riots unscathed, others are left injured and sometimes others die.
If everyday living means putting their lives at risk, then why would they still choose to join a gang?
According to Joshua, he found camaraderie and sense of belongingness in a gang.
“Ang kalipay ug kalingaw na ginahatag sa gang sa akua kay dili jud mahatag sa akuang pamilya (The happiness and fun provided by my gang are denied me by my family),” he said.
He said he would rather get himself hurt during gang riots than stay at home while watching his parents gamble, not giving him even the slightest attention he wants.
Most members are out of school. With nothing to keep them busy and happy, they get worse.
According to PO1 Cameros of Sta. Ana Police Station, one minor gang member has tried marijuana and shabu with the gang. He had shoplifted in a convenience store and stabbed a man.
There’s just too many of these stories, all of them leaving scars on the victims and aggressors, some temporary, others permanent. Sometimes the blame is put on the local government units that are tasked to attend to the social welfare of every Dabawenyo.
The government and policemen are also not exempted as they are questioned on why gangs continue to proliferate. It remains a threat not only to teenagers but also to the parents.
In the eyes of the law, a juvenile or a minor is any person under the legal adult age. This age varies from state to state. In the Philippines, girls and boys below 18 of age are still minors.
According to Senator Kiko Pangilinan who crafted Republic Act No. 9344 known as the Juvenile Justice Law, the law aims to protect the welfare of children in conflict with the law, majority of whom are guilty of minor crimes such as petty theft, vagrancy and sniffing glue.
Leonardo Valdesco Tarongoy, Operation Manager in Sta. Ana Police Station said that if he’s given the chance to change the age of exemption from criminal charges, he would.
“Because of this law, children are pampered and chances are high that these young offenders would become chronic delinquents and worst, hardened criminals,” Tarongoy added.
Aside from that, families of the victims are also deprived of their right to justice if the suspect is a minor.
“The law is really disappointing,” Tarongoy said.
According to Tarongoy, it has been a repetitive cycle. They rescue a minor who committed a crime, bring him/her to the proper office, then bring him/her to the police station, and then release.
“After how many days, we end up rescuing the same minor we’ve rescued several days ago. The law breeds criminals,” he said.
According to Tarongoy, the law is putting these minors to danger. Gangster leaders or criminal syndicates are more encouraged to employ children knowing that they won’t suffer the criminal consequences.
Even Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte wanted to change the age bracket of exemption from criminal consequences, according to Tarongoy.
Contrary to what Tarongoy said, Lita Adaton, a parent of a former gang member said, that the law is just fair because children below 18 cannot discern yet and don’t have the mental capacity to determine right from wrong.
But another parent named Kenneth Englis believes that incarcerating these minors or young offenders will deter syndicates from conspiring with them.
This Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 encourages felony among the youth and this discourages the police to arrest minors. Sometimes, the police would just tell a complainant to just beat up the offender if they catch him. If the police sound jaded, that’s because they have seen these teenagers go in and out of jail and in again, even after undergoing counseling by the DSWD.
The law is one of the reasons why the local government and police authorities are having difficulties in regulating these minors. Their hands are tied and can’t freely do what they should to serve what is due to everyone.
Several weeks ago, I saw on television news about field trips that were caught in accidents. It was scary to see the injured and dead students. It made me scared of field trips although I know there are many, many things you can learn outside the classroom.