Suspension of Juvenile Justice Law, immature—group

MANILA, September 14, 2011—Akap-Bata Partylist assails the proposed suspension of the implementation of the Juvenile Justice Law (Republic Act 9344) as the Philippine Legislature has to decide whether to lower the age of criminal liability from 15 years old to nine and had said that it will just aggravate the bourgeoning problem of child abuse.

The proposal came after the series of taxi robberies perpetrated by the “Mga Batang Hamog” had been publicized by the media. Mostly minors, their modus operandi is to forcibly open the doors of a taxicab while it was caught in traffic, and rob the passengers and the drivers of the cab. In almost split-second the juvenile thieves will jump over the barbed-wired walls of the Metrorail Transit to escape and will just walk as if nothing happened.

But for Akap-Bata, the case of Batang Hamog is a “narrow” justification to suspend the law and to lower the criminal liability of minors.

“Instead of suspending the law,” says Lean Peace Flores, Akap-Bata spokesperson said, “the Senators as well as the entire national government must think further on how they can address root causes why our children are being involved in these kinds of criminal acts and syndicates.”

For Flores, the authorities should have that political will of going after the leaders of syndicates who are using minors for their criminal acts and made them accountable.

Poverty has a role in the rise of child felons

Flores also said that extreme poverty in the country plays an important role in the increase of number of children involved in felony.

“The children in conflict with the law are being victims twice by syndicate groups and of the extreme poverty brought by negligence of the government against them and their families,” explains Flores.

“The deepening poverty in the country remains to be the vital issue that the government needs to address in order to resolve the growing number of children who are in conflict with the law. Instead of suspending the RA9344, our legislators and President Benigno Simeon Aquino III himself must look on how to allocate greater state subsidy on education, health care, housing and other basic social services that our children need today,” she added.

Suspension of Juvenile Justice Law: immature

Nonetheless, the suspension of the RA 9344 will only reflect the “immaturity” of the country’s criminal justice and the law enforcement systems, Flores said.

“The proposal by the Senate to suspend the RA 9344 reflects the immaturity of our society in terms of treating our children, in general. We fear that our country is getting left behind on issues of child protection compared to the international community and standards wherein children are prohibited to face judicial settings and institutional care in order to uphold their rights as children,” the child right’s advocate explained.

For her, children should not suffer all forms of cruel punishments, especially if it is coming from the State whose primary role is to protect them.

“They (the children) are the most vulnerable sector in the society thus they are the sector that needs to be protected against prejudices. These young people who were actually victims of neglect, poverty, hunger, malnutrition and all other social injustices from the government were the most rightful people to demand punishment of the State who abandoned them for the longest time,” opines Flores.

On the other hand, Akap-Bata says that it is too early to amend the law for many of its provisions are yet to be fully implemented.

“We agree that there must be an assessment on how the law has been implemented, to address some concerns over budget for the rehabilitation facilities and professionals, the actual implementation of the law, and what the real function of Juvenile Justice Welfare Committee is,” Flores said. (Written for