MANILA - The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) urged the government to fully and effectively implement the country's Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act.
UNICEF joins other socio-civic organizations and advocates in calling against the lowering of the minimum age of criminal responsibility.
"Children in conflict with the law are already victims of circumstance, mostly because of poverty and exploitation by adults. Children need access to rehabilitation services because they deserve a second chance. They need to be protected and not further penalized," UNICEF said in a statement.
Monday, May 20, marks the 13th anniversary of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, and UNICEF reiterates its commitment to promote the rights of children, including those in conflict with the law.
"As we celebrate this milestone, let us be reminded that all children must be treated with dignity and accorded their inalienable rights with utmost respect and protection," UNICEF said.
Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act (JJWA), was adopted on May 20, 2006 and amended in 2013.
It promotes the creation of a child-friendly justice system focused on rehabilitation and restoration rather than punishment.
"The law makes it clear – without a doubt – that there is a need for a separate juvenile justice system where detention is the last resort. The erring child must be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society if the child must take responsibility for his or her action and mend the broken relationship with the community and the victim," UNICEF explained.
UNICEF also said there have been success stories from the proper implementation of the law, with children formerly in conflict with the law rehabilitated without imprisonment or detention.
The group urged the government to celebrate the 13th anniversary of the law by upholding the rights and interests of the children.
"We call on the government to work with child rights defenders and strengthen the juvenile justice system for the sake of all Filipino children," UNICEF said.