Press Release
July 4, 2012

Miriam and JJWC: Rehabilitate not penalize children in conflict with law

July 4, 2012 - Reacting to the results of an official online survey by the House of Representatives on lowering the minimum age of criminal liability, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said that the public finds it unfortunate to push for children to be placed under the criminal justice system.

"Criminal justice should never be a controlling paradigm for children, especially for those who have committed non-heinous offenses. Even in heinous crimes, the intention should still be the child's restoration, rehabilitation and reintegration. It is in these cases, where diversion could be utilized to help in the protection and rehabilitation of the child", adds Santiago.

Almost a month after the House of Representatives passed on third and final reading House Bill No. 6052 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 (JJWA), which proposes to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) from 15 to 12 years old, a poll was conducted to determine whether the public agreed with the bill or not. The poll shows that almost 70 percent of those who participated in the poll are against the lowering of the MACR. "The Juvenile Justice System should follow the framework of Restorative Justice, which promotes children safety rather than community safety. When you promote children's safety, then community safety is inherently achieved. If the community is safe for children, it is safe for all," Santiago said.

The senator reiterated her proposal made in an amendment speech on the original Juvenile Justice Bill in 2005 that for "non-heinous offenses," children under 18 years should be totally exempt from criminal liability but can be subjected to a child welfare, restoration, intervention, and protection program to be determined by a social worker.

"A higher standard should be set for children to avoid the criminal justice system as much as possible. Children, who are mature minors at age 16 or 17 years, rarely commit crimes on their own. There usually are adult masterminds," the senator said.

According to Attorney Tricia Clare Oco, executive director of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council Secretariat, the results gave the JJWA "a much-needed shot in the arm."

"We are excited about the poll result because it echoes the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council's opinion that lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility is not the answer to solving criminality involving children and the poll shows we are not alone in this conviction and we appreciate that support," said Oco.

Atty. Oco added that openly-expressed opinions on very important issues coming from prominent and respected personalities help give proper attention to the provisions of the JJWA.

"Support, coming whether directly from the people in the form of surveys or from lawmakers, who understand the letters and the spirit of the law, definitely provides us with the much needed moral boost in our efforts to promote and protect the rights and the welfare of the children in conflict with the law," Atty. Oco said.

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