MANILA, Philippines - Figures should tell critics of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act that rehabilitation works for children in conflict with the law, its principal author said.
In an interview with dzMM, Senator Francis Pangilinan said “as a general rule,” only 5% to 8% of minors captured for different crimes become recidivists.
“In other words, there is a positive impact [to rehabilitation]. Huwag nating sunugin ang buong bahay para patayin ang mga daga,” he said.
He is referring to criticisms that the law is not working to bring down the number of juvenile crimes.
A move is now underway in the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights for the suspension of the law. Some are also pushing to change the age limit, from the minimum age of 15 to 9, for criminal prosecution because of an increase in crime involving minors.
In Mandaluyong City, for example, of the 270 minors in conflict with the law, only 15 became repeat offenders, he said.
He also noted the story of “Winsley” who was earlier accosted for robbery. “After continuous rehab, he is now a supervisor of a gas station.”
He said the law provides for a separate justice system for the youth, with the belief that they can’t be dealt with like hardened criminals and thus put in jail with the same.
Pangilinan said the law came into being after international media put the criminal justice system of the country in a bad light. He said the likes of CNN showed footages of minors living in the same cells with the hardened criminals. “It was a big embarrassment.”
He stressed, “there is no perfect law but if we will amend, we should amend by strengthening.”
Lack of political will has hampered the full realization of the law, he noted.
“When [President Benigno Aquino III] came into position, it was only the time that funds were funneled into it,” he said.
Before that, the council that monitors the implementation of the law only had 5 employees, he said.
“Kahit na anong batas na ganun ang trato, sa loob ng apat na taon, talagang ganun,” he said.
He also noted Congress allocated P80 million for the law in 2010, “but it was not released.”