PROVINCIAL Board (PB) Member Thadeo Ouano has filed a resolution asking Congress to review the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, especially the section that exempts those 15 years old or younger from criminal liability.

He cited reports that the number of youth offenders in Southern Mindanao increased by more than 30 percent just over a year after the implementation of Republic Act 9344.

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Interviewed separately, a human rights investigator supported the call to review or repeal RA 9344, saying some groups have taken advantage of it by using children for illegal activities.

“The law should be repealed. At least, the provisions should be amended,” said Primo Cadampog, an investigator of the Commission on Human Rights 7.

The section that PB Member Ouano singled out also states that those above 15 but below 18 years old should be exempt from criminal liability, but must undergo an intervention program, “unless he/she acted with discernment.”

The review of RA 9344, along with other proposals like a curfew on minors, has again been brought up amid reports of increasing numbers of teens and children getting involved in crime, whether as perpetrators or victims.

Cadampog said there should be a thorough study on the law, so that children can be protected from exploitation by criminal groups.

The Regional Peace and Order Council chaired by Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, during their quarterly full council meeting last month, passed a resolution asking for the repeal of the law.

The police in Central Visayas have also been clamoring for legislators to study the possibility of repealing the law, as statistics on minors involved in crime has kept rising.

At the time Congress was discussing the bills that led to RA 9344, it was responding to criticisms of the conditions of young offenders who were made to share prison cells with adult hardened criminals.

Sun.Star Davao, in a Jan. 21, 2008 report, quoted the United Nations Children’s Fund as saying an estimated 4,000 children were imprisoned at the end of 2005, most of them charged with minor crimes.

But in his resolution, Ouano cites figures that show a rising incidence of crimes involving minors. Theft, drug use and rape were the most common cases. (RRF/JTG)