MANILA, Philippines - The principal author of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act said everyone should understand the law’s essence before pushing for amendments.
In a press release, Senator Francis Pangilinan noted: “Nowhere in the law does it state that we should simply let youth offenders go, regardless of their age. Nowhere in the law does it state that children in conflict with the law are 'exempt' of any kind of justice. Ang sinasabi sa batas ay hindi natin dapat husgahan at ikulong ang mga batang nagkakasala sa parehong paraan na hinuhusgahan at kinukulong ang mga mas matanda.”
This comes on the back of a move from the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights to recommend the suspension of the law. Some are also pushing to change the age limit for criminal prosecution because of an increase in crime involving minors.
"First of all, the law provides for a separate justice system for children and youth, with the belief that our youth should not be condemned to lives of criminality by throwing them into the same jail as hardened criminals,” Pangilinan said.
He noted the law in place right now is one of reformative justice. Minors will still be held accountable for their acts, he stressed.
"Under the law, even minors may be held liable, and if they are above fifteen (15) years old, and they may be prosecuted and held liable criminally as an adult,” he added.
"It is against the law to release a child without going through the proper diversion program—more so if the offender is a repeat offender. Also, involuntary confinement is a remedy available, especially for minors involved in serious offenses (assuming that, the first time around, the intruder was still a minor), and releasing a child involved in a serious offense is a violation of the Juvenile Justice Law,” he added.
He also said there are hitches to the implementation of the law.
First, the funding was only released this year. The law was passed in 2006, he noted.
He also stressed those who should be at the forefront of implementing the law do not understand themselves its essence.