Press Release
May 16, 2006


Senate Majority Leader joined calls for the immediate and unconditional release of the children implicated with the Sagada 12, a group of mountaineers arrested by the Benguet police early this year.

Two children, ages 15 and 16 years old, were arrested on February 10, 2006 when they were suspected to have been members of the New Peoples Army. Those arrested were accused of involvement in an ambush in Sagada in February 10 that reportedly killed nine soldiers. Sagada police said witnesses positively identified the suspects as responsible for the ambush. The minors face charges of robbery with homicide and are now detained at the Benguet provincial jail.

The innocent mountaineers, who had only intended to go trekking and attend a rock concert in Tarlac, face charges of robbery with homicide and are now held at the Benguet provincial jail. Obviously, their case of sheer mistaken identity should be condemned and challenged. They should be released to the restorative justice system that the Juvenile Justice Law or RA 9344 provides for, Senator Kiko added.

Senator Kiko is the author of the Juvenile Justice Bill in the Senate which was signed into law today by President Arroyo. The law provides that children 15 years and below will be criminally exempt while youth offenders aged 15 to 18 years old can only be criminally charged if they acted out the crime with discernment. It also outlines the immediate turn over of children in conflict with the law to social workers upon apprehension.

I likewise support demands for a public apology to be issued to the victims and their families. We cannot be silent witnesses to blunders of this kind. Incarceration is a traumatic experience for anyone, especially for children. The least our authorities could do is recognize this damage and offer their apologies, Senator Kiko ended.

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