Position Statement of the Sangguniang Laiko ng Pilipinas on the proposed House Bill No. 8858
“If anyone causes one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6)
The House of Representatives under the Speakership of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, is now rushing for the approval of the act amending and expanding the RA 9344 “The Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006” which will LOWER DOWN THE MINIMUM AGE OF CRIMINAL RESPONSIBILITY OF CHILDREN FROM 15 YEARS OLD TO 12 YEARS OLD.
The proposed bill was introduced with the following objectives:
- To protect minors from being exploited by syndicates and unscrupulous persons that use minors to escape liability for crimes and other illegal activities.
- To provide adequate intervention and diversion measures for children in conflict with the law.
- To increase the penalties for the exploitation of children for the commission of crimes.
Granting that these objectives are reasonable and most ideal in the current situation, the MAIN ISSUE remains: Will lowering down the age of criminal responsibility address the causes why children commit crimes?
The Sangguniang Laiko ng Pilipinas firmly believes, together with other organizations concerned with the welfare of children, that the root causes are:
- Poverty and lack of access to opportunities and government services
- Poor Parenting and Supervision
- Peer Pressure
- Prevalence of and unabating criminality resulting to unhealthy social environment
A secondary objection and question which remains to be answered with certainty is:
“Can the Bahay Pag-asa and the Agricultural Camps and Training Facility to be established, maintained, supervised and controlled by DSWD in PARTNERSHIP the BUCOR (Bureau of Corrections) and TESDA, provide and deliver its mandate “to design and implement the rehabilitation and intervention programs in these specialized facilities in order to prepare the residents therein for successful reintegration into their families and communities upon discharge and release?”
Pending conclusive proof of the viability and success of these programs in these very expensive “SPECIALIZED FACILITIES”, of which our government has no model to show, we simply cannot abandon the future of these “children in conflict with the law” to chance. Each life is invaluable. Bawat isang buhay at kinabukasan ay mahalaga.
Lastly, a very dangerous section (Section 43-A) was inserted which in effect will prevent any appeal or reconsideration or correction in the judgements given to these young offenders, to wit:
SEC 43-A. PENALTY FOR VIOLATION OF CONFIDENTIALITY OF RECORDS- ANY PERSON WHO HAS BEEN FOUND GUILTY OF DIVULGING, WILFULLY OR THROUGH GROSS INEXCUSABLE NEGLIGENCE, THE RECORDS OR ANY INFORMATION RELATION TO THE PROCEEDINGS INVOLVING CHILDREN IN CONFLICT WITH THE LAW, SHALL SUFFER THE PENALTIES IMPOSED IN TITLE VII, CHAPTER 3 OF THIS ACT.”
Simply put, once a child has been arrested, the court, within 72 hours, has to make a decision for the petition for an involuntary commitment to these specialized facilities. The initial period of the placement of the child shall not be less than one year. After that 72 hours, no person can have access to the records or any information in relation to the proceedings. Therefore, No DSWD, NGO or Charitable Institution can help these children because NO ONE WILL GIVE OUT ANY RECORD OR INFORMATION UNDER THE PAIN OF STIFF PENALTIES.
We also propose the following to our Legislators:
- Give priority to the effective implementation of RA 9344.
- Increase the penalties against the exploiters of children.
With all the foregoing, the SANGGUNIANG LAIKO NG PILIPINAS calls upon our citizenry to OPPOSE AND MAKE A STAND AGAINST THIS HOUSE BILL 8858.
For the LAIKO Board of Directors,
JULIETA F. WASAN, Ph.D.
January 24, 2019