RA 9344 mandates release of juvenile offenders
By Miriam P. Aquino
San Fernando City, La Union (4 October) -- In compliance to the new directives of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to free all juvenile offenders still languishing in jails, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) – Regional Office I has ordered the release of Children-In-Conflict-with-the-Law (CICL) in the region in coordination with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), other line-agencies as well as the LGUs.
According to Lilyanne Colisao, DILG-RO I, Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council in-charge, their agency has been tasked to assist the BJMP in the conduct of an inventory-based updating of minor offenders prior to the implementation of Republic Act 9344 otherwise known as the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, which was signed into Law by the President in April last year.
The data issued by JO2 Carlos Boado, Duty Operations / CICL Coordinator, BJMP-ROI shows that prior to the implementation of RA 9344 in April 2006, they have already release 51 CICLs in 2005.
In 2006, a total of 44 CICLs from January to December were released: 16 were released based on provisions of RA 9344; 11 after their cases were dismissed; 9 were released on bail; and 8 were transferred to the custody of the DSWD.
From the months of January to August this year, a total of 22 CICLs were released: 5 after their cases were dismissed; 1 was acquitted; 1 was transferred to the Bureau of Corrections; 4 were transferred to the custody of DSWD; 1 was released on bail; 9 were released on recognizance; and 1 after it was found that the sentence has been served.
RA 9344 mandates the immediate release of CICL from detention but requires them to undergo diversion programs like counseling, capacity building, training and socio-civic work under DSWD supervision.
A regionwide dialog per province was also conducted by the DSWD-ROI to guide the LGUs as regards their counterpart in the implementation of such act, Kathleen Balbuena, Social Worker II of DSWD Regional Office I said.
Balbuena cited that some CICL were considered dismissed regardless of crime committed and were transferred to the custody of the barangays where they are required to undergo diversion programs or interventions depending on what has been agreed upon by the LGUs and social worker concerned.
Those minors aged 15 – below has been transferred to the custody of their parents or guardians, who for their part must also undergo training on responsible parenthood to effectively perform their responsibilities for the child to live a normal life, Balbuena added.
The BJMP - RO I is tasked to monitor and ensure that minors who are detained in their area are not being abused, considering the fact that they cannot provide a separate cell structure intended for detained minors only due to lack of funds.
DILG Secretary Ronaldo Puno is a principal proponent of the "restorative justice" approach that seeks to enable inmates most especially those who are neither hardcore criminals nor recidivists or relapsed criminals, to lead productive lives even behind bars, and to clear the way to their swift rehabilitation and reintegration into mainstream society following their release from jail. (PIA La Union) [top]