MANILA The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on Friday called for the stronger implementation of Republic Act No. 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act (JJWA) of 2006.
During the Senate hearing on bills lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility, UNICEF Representative to the Philippines Lotta Sylwander said the present juvenile justice law is a very solid law but the problem lies in its implementation.
There seems to be no accountability to actually implement it from LGUs (local government units), from DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development), etc., Sylwander said.
Changing the law or doing something different is not going to change anything unless we are, as a collective, ready to implement it, she added.
Sylwander argued that while children are still accountable for their crimes, they should be given a second chance in life.
They can be taught and they can be given and should be given a second chance in life. We don't want to create criminals. We want to save them from being criminals, she said.
Dr. Liane Alampay of the Psychological Association of the Philippines echoed UNICEF's remark, saying that the problem on juvenile delinquency will not be solved by lowering the age threshold of criminal liability but by stronger implementation of the law.
She said the move to lower the criminal liability age to 12 years old would make thousands of children vulnerable to all the implementation failures in the country's social welfare system, particularly noting the lack of child-caring reform centers or Bahay Pag-asa.
(These involve) all the implementation failures and the risks that children will actually be in detention centers, in places without rehabilitation programs. We're not just talking about Bahay Pag-asa as structures, we mean programs. Many of these Bahay Pag-asa (centers) do not have formative programs for young children, Alampay said.
She warned of recidivism, or the tendency of a juvenile offender to repeat an offense, due to the poor implementation of the rehabilitation programs.
Kung babaan pa natin ang edad (If we further lower the age threshold), I worry that we are really exposing thousands and thousands more children to very vulnerable conditions that could really narrow their future life options, she said.
The risk is higher that they will be repeating their offenses because of poor implementation, she added.
Senator Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate justice panel, said he would recommend to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 12 years old.
The Senate leadership is eyeing the passage of the bill by June. (PNA)
Source: Philippines News Agency