THE Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) urged lawmakers to give them time to fully implement the Juvenile Justice Law rather than lower, by an amendment, the minimal age of criminal responsibility from 15 years old to nine.

Congress is still taking up House Bill 2, which contains the amendment, but DSWD 7 reiterated its stand that the proposal will not help reduce crimes allegedly perpetrated by children.

Dinah Miel, DSWD 7 focal person for juvenile justice and welfare, told SunStar Cebu that fully implementing Republic Act 10630 or the amended Juvenile Justice Law of 2006 is more practical than making children as young as nine answerable for their alleged offenses.

Even though the law is in place, it has not been fully implemented after four years after its last amendment, she said.

Social workers in communities

Miel explained that some features of RA 10630 have yet to be realized, such as mandating local government units to create a Comprehensive Local Juvenile Intervention Program (CLJIP) and the creation of local Councils for the Protection of Children (CPC) in the barangays.

The law also provides that LGUs must hire a full-time licensed social worker to handle children at risk (CAR) and children in conflict with the law (CCWL).

Miel said that only a few LGUs have heeded all of the law’s provisions. But she also observed that majority of LGUs don’t understand the law fully.

Kailangan gyud nga pasabton ang atong mga local officials kung unsa ang ilang obligasyon base sa balaod (Our local officials need to understand their obligations under this law),” she added.

Lawmakers pushing for the amendment believe that nine-year-olds these days, given their exposure to information online, “are already fully informed and should be taught that they are responsible for what they say and do.”

But in a statement, DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo expressed opposition to House Bill 2, saying it is “anti-poor” and violates the fundamental principles of social protection of children.