Erring minors to face jail time

MINORS involved in serious crimes will no longer go scot-free.

This, as senatorial candidate and former secretary for food security Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan announced that the controversial Juvenile Justice Law, or Republic Act (RA) 9344, has been amended.

Pangilinan, who was in Cebu yesterday for a dialogue with various civil society groups, told reporters that contrary to various claims, provisions under RA 9344 have been amended to ensure that any “legal loopholes” have been addressed.

But Pangilinan, who is the main author of the law, admitted that there are still some problems with the law’s implementation, including law enforcement agencies that are afraid to arrest minors, especially those who are being used by syndicates.

Police excuse

“Police often say that ginagamit daw nang sindikato (minors are being used by syndicates), that is why dinadakip nila ang bata (they arrest the minors). Why not habulin yung sindikato (go after the syndicates)? Kaya nila ang bata, pero ang sindikato di nila kaya (They can go after the minors, but not the syndicates)? Baka kasabwat nila ang sindikato (Maybe they’re in cahoots with the syndicates),” Pangilinan said.

Pangilinan said that based on the amended law, minors involved in serious crimes like rape, murder, homicide and even illegal drug peddling, use and possession can face jail time ranging from nine months to one year.

The amended law also carries provisions that will prosecute adults who will use children in committing crimes, such as using them as couriers for illegal drug activities.

The amended law also mandates local government units to set aside one percent of their total annual budget for the implementation of the law.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development is also mandated to come up with a Juvenile Justice Welfare Council (JJWC) composed of various agencies.

The JJWC will be tasked to oversee the implementation of RA 9344 and to come up with policies against juvenile delinquency and the promotion of juvenile justice and welfare.

Lack of understanding

But Pangilinan said that while the law is already in place, he is disappointed that some people still don’t understand it, particularly law enforcement agencies.

He lamented that problems in the implementation and execution of the law persist because law enforcers focus more on the child than on those who are compelling the child to commit the crime.

Pangilinan also reminded law enforcement agencies that adults who use minors to commit serious crimes can be charged with the full force of the law.

He said that despite its earlier kinks, the amended RA 9344 now has provisions that ensure that children who commit serious crimes will face responsibility.

“We believe the law is enough. It must be executed properly,” he added.

Signed into law in 2006, RA 9344 faced criticism when some sectors claimed that it protected children directly involved in crimes, especially if he or she is below 18.

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