DAVAO CITY – Running mates Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Senator Alan Peter Cayetano are studying the possibility of aggravating the punishment for adults who exploit minors in carrying out their criminal activities.

This, apart from renewing their calls to lower minimum age of criminal liability as stated in the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act.

“It’s time to bring back order and keep our kids off the streets as we wage an all-out war against organized crime,” Duterte said in a statement.

Under Section 6 of Republic Act 9344, children aged 15 years old and below are exempted from criminal liability.

“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 the appropriate proceedings in accordance with this Act,” the law states.

In the statement, the two candidates said the loopholes of the law “are being exploited by crime and drug syndicates to use children for illegal activities.”

Young but repeat offenders? Treat as adults in jail

For repeat offenders, they said a new provision should be inserted so that those above 15 but below 18 shall be treated as adult offenders.

“In many cases, drug traffickers use minors as couriers, a modus operandi made rather convenient by the law. Often times, these guys just go scot-free and grow up with no sense of accountability,” Duterte said.

On the other hand, Cayetano clarified that minors would be placed in separate detention facilities and given the same rehabilitation, reintegration, and after-care services to ensure their normal growth. He said tough anti-crime measures must go hand in hand with restorative justice when it comes to children in conflict with the law (CICL).

“Our goal in pushing for these amendments is to end the disorder in the streets. Through this, we reduce the number of crimes committed by minors and protect them from notorious criminals and syndicates who take advantage of their vulnerabilities,” Cayetano said.

Increasing involvement of minors in crimes alarming?

In June last year the Quick Response Team for Children’s Concern (QRTCC) reported that there was a sudden decrease in the involvement of minors in crimes which they attributed to the awareness campaign and interventions done at the barangay level.

The City Prosecution Office also reported an increase in the number of children in conflict with the law (CICL) in the first quarter of 2015 with 91 cases compared to 73 cases in 2014, or a 124.66 percent increase.

But cause-oriented groups are still questioning the efficiency of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act in term of its implementation.

For the Children’s Rehabilitation Center, the government should look at the situation of the child in committing crimes like poverty and lack of access to social services.

According to the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council, the Philippines has over 11,000 CICL in 2009.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) observed that most of these CICL are between 14 and 17 years old, but some cases involve much younger children. (davaotoday.com)

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