Judge asserts: Children should not be jailed per RA 9344
by Emma C. Tabalanza
City of San Fernando, Pampaga (26 October) -- No children should not jailed with the passage of RA 9344 or the “Juvenile Justice and Welfare System”.
This was disclosed by Judge Ofelia T. Pinto, presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 60 of Angeles City, during the orientation on the “Juvenile Justice and Welfare System Act” held recently at the Commission on Audit Gymnasium, Regional Government Center, Maimpis, this city.
The orientation which was participated in by some 300 representatives from government agencies, non government organizations and religious sector aims to enlighten law enforcers and concerned citizens on the process of handling children who commit criminal offense, but one thing clear is that they should not be in jail, Pinto said.
Pinto said that RA 9344 covers the different stages –from prevention to rehabilitation -involving children at risk and children in conflict with the law.
A “child at risk” is a child who is vulnerable to and at the risk of committing criminal offenses because of personal, family and social circumstances like the following :
- Being abused by any person through sexual, physical, psychological, mental, economic or any other means and the parents or guardians refuse, are unwilling, or unable to provide protection for the child;
- exploited sexually or economically, abandoned or neglected, coming from a dysfunctional or broken family, or
- without a parent or guardian, out of school, a street child, a member of a gang, living in a community with a high level of criminality or drug abuse and in a situation of armed conflict.
Pinto said that a child in conflict of the law is a child who is alleged as accused of, or adjudged as, having committed an offense under the Philippine Laws.
The important features of the law are : Section 6, a child fifteen (15) years of age or under at the time of the commission of the offense shall be exempt from criminal liability. But he shall be subjected to an intervention program pursuant to Section 20 of this act.
A child above fifteen (15) years but below eighteen (18) years of age shall likewise be exempt from criminal liability and be subjected to an intervention program, unless he/she has acted with discernment, in which case, such child shall be subjected to an appropriate proceedings in accordance with this Act.
The exemption from criminal liability herein established does not include exemption from civil liability, which shall be enforced in accordance with existing laws.
“Intervention” is a series of activities designed to address issues that caused the child to commit an offense like counseling, skills training, education and other activities that will enhance his/her psychological, emotional and psycho-social well being.
Pinto stressed that under Section 20, it has been determined that if the child taken into custody is fifteen years old or below he should be released after eight (8) hours to the parents/guardian or nearest relative, non-government organization (NGO) religious organization, barangay official or a member of the Barangay Council for theProtection of Children (BCPC), Local Social Welfare and Development Office or the Department of Social Welfare and Development Office pursuant to PD No. 603, otherwise known as “The Child and Youth Welfare Code”, if the child has been found to be abandoned, neglected and abused by parents
If the child is above fifteen (15) years old but below eighteen (18) he or she will undergo diversion programs without undergoing court proceedings subject to the following conditions
Where the imposable penalty for the crime committed is not more than six (6) years of imprisonment, the law enforcement officer or Punong Barangay with the assistance of local social welfare and development officer or other members of the BCPC shall conduct mediation, family conferencing and conciliation with the presence of his family.
In victimless crimes where imposable penalty is not more that six (6) years imprisonment , the local social welfare and development officer shall meet the child and his/her parents or guardians for the development of the appropriate diversion and rehabilitation program, in coordination with the BCPC.
Where the imposable penalty for the crime committed exceeds six (6) years imprisonment, diversion measures may be resorted to only by the court.
Pinto added that diversion proceedings must be terminated within the period of 45 days.
She also said that under Section 28, persons below eighteen years old or Children In Conflict With the Law (CICL) are exempted from the following offenses :vagrancy and prostitution under Section 202 of the Revised Penal Code; mendicancy under Presidential Decree No. 1563 and sniffing rugby under PD No. 1619 but they shall undergo counseling and treatment proper. (PIA-Pampanga) [top]