ould you give a minor suspect another crack at life or you want him to spend time in jail together with other adult suspects?
This is the premise that 100 representatives from different sectors tackled last Thursday on the controversial Republic Act 9344 otherwise known as the Juvenile Justice Law and Welfare Act of 2006. Authored by Senator Francis Pangilingan, it has become a virtual whipping boy of local government units that finds it difficult to deal with juvenile delinquents.
Agdao Centro barangay captain Rene Estorpe said during the forum to abolish the law because it’s useless to implement its provisions without the corresponding budget from the government.
“We have one percent budget for women’s and children project. The restoration programs are not easy. It (the program) needs expert psychologists,” he said.
He narrated that recidivists in his barangays have become a headache because they just go back to the streets after being turned over to authorities.
“We arrested them at nine in the morning because of theft, released at 1 p.m. and the next morning, the minor is again involved in a stealing incident,” he said.
Teresita Pioncho, focal person of the city social serivice and development office (CSSDO) and the JJLWA project, admitted that the government has not enough budget to fully implement the diversion and rehabilitation programs incorporated in the law.
“This law anchored with restoration of the children to protect them and giving a chance to a new life … in this way, the child is aided in the traumatic experiences like the court proceedings,” she said.
SPO4 Lilibeth Limolar of the Women and Protection Desk in Davao City said theft cases topped the list of crimes committed by children but she is not favor of abolishing the law but only amending some articles, particularly the age limit.
She is particularly worried about the rising abuse of children on solvent and other addictive substances.
Atty. Antonio Arellano, regional prosecutor of DOJ-XI, said he could not comment to amend the age limit of the child offender on the absence of empirical data to who that children of today are more mature than before.
“If they are is a data on that, then that’s the time I can comment,” he said.
Pia Garduce, a women and children rights advocate, said there are no statictics that specifically conclude that crimes committed by children are increasing this year because the figures are heavily slanted toward areas with bigger populations.
“Gabriela (partylist) proposed to increase the budget for the implementation but rejected but we won’t give up because the law enforcers do not understand the spirit of the law,” she said.
The forum is also attended by barangay captains, representatives of the city council, non-government organizations, social workers, guidance counselors, women and children’s advocates.