Press Release
January 28, 2013

Senate amends Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006

The Senate today approved on final reading a bill amending Republic Act No. 9344, otherwise known as the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, in order to improve its implementation.

Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, co-sponsor of Senate Bill No. 3324 under Committee Report No. 463, said Republic Act No. 9344 aims to protect the welfare of children in conflict with the law, majority of whom are guilty of petty crimes such as petty theft, vagrancy and sniffing glue.

"Prior to the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, children in conflict with the law were thrown into the same prison cells as hardened criminals. Studies show that most of them were first-time offenders, while eight percent committed crimes against property," Pangilinan said.

"These children are then doomed to a life of crime, rending them victims of a judicial system that inadvertently breeds criminals," he added.

With the implementation of RA 9344, Pangilinan said, children in conflict with the law are being provided with intervention programs instead of being thrown into jail. But like any other law, he explained, certain provisions of RA 9344 need to be improved.

SBN 3324 clarifies the meaning of "fifteen years of age," the age of criminal responsibility. Current misinterpretation leads to youth offenders under 15 years old being released when they should instead be subject to formal proceedings.

Under the proposed measure, children 15 years old and under at the time of the commission of the crime, will be exempted from criminal liability. However, these minors can face civil liabilities in accordance with existing laws.

"Children who are 15 years of age or under shall not be exempt from civil liabilities. Liability of parents for quasi-delicts and felonies committed by their minor children is direct and primary and not subsidiary. This means that the parents or guardians exercising parental authority over their children shall be responsible for the restitution, reparation and indemnification for consequential damages, as the case may be. If the child committed theft, he or she is obliged to return the thing he or she has stolen. If it is not possible to return what he or she has stolen, the parents should pay the amount equivalent to what the child has stolen," Lawyer Cecile Palines, Pangilinan's staff, said.

Children under this category shall be immediately released to the custody of his or her parents or guardians, or in the absence thereof, the child's nearest relative. Furthermore, children who are 15 years old or below shall be subjected to a community-based intervention program supervised by the local social welfare and development officer, unless the best interest of the child requires the referral of the child to a youth care facility or Bahay Pag-Asa managed by the DSWD, LGU's or licensed and/or accredited NGOs monitored by the DSWD, she added.

The measure also proposes that repeat offenders, or children who have committed crimes more than three times, be considered as neglected children and, as such, must undergo intervention programs supervised by the local social welfare and development officers.

Meanwhile, the measure also states that children 15 years old or below who committed heinous crimes such as rape and murder shall be mandatorily placed in a special facility within the youth care facility or Bahay Pag-Asa called the Intensive Juvenile Intervention and Support Center, Palines explained.

The proposed legislation also provides the maximum penalty for those who exploit children such as syndicates, for the commission of criminal offenses.

"This bill also requires that discernment be alleged in the information in a criminal case involving children in conflict with the law," Pangilinan said.

Pangilinan said the Juvenile Justice Welfare Council will be required to conduct a periodic study on the age of discernment to provide basis for a legislative review.

The measure also proposes assistance to victims of crimes committed by children. It will also ask local government units to strictly implement local curfew ordinances for the protection of children. However, no penalty shall be imposed on the child. Instead he will be accompanied to his or her residence.

The proposed amendments were authored by Senate Majority Floor Leader Vicente Sotto III and Senators Ramon Revilla, Manny Villar, Pangilinan, Miriam Defensor Santiago, Chiz Escudero and Pia Cayetano. Escudero, chair of the Committee on Justice and Human Rights, is the principal sponsor of the measure. (PILAR S. MACROHON, PRIB)

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