THE JUVENILE JUSTICE LAW (R.A. 9344)
Questions and Answers
Why a new law on juvenile justice?
Republic Act No. 9344 (RA 9344) or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act is a result of the State’s recognition of the child’s right to be treated in a manner consistent with the promotion of the child’s sense of dignity and worth, taking into account the child’s age and desirability of promoting his/her reintegration. The new juvenile justice and welfare system ensures “that children are dealt with in a manner appropriate to their well-being by providing for, among others, a variety of disposition measures such as care, guidance and supervision orders, counseling, probation, foster care, education and vocational training programs and other alternatives to institutional care.”
What is restorative justice?
“Restorative justice” refers to a principle that requires a process of resolving conflicts with the greatest amount of involvement of the victim, the offender, and the community. It seeks to right a wrong for the sake of the victim; restoration of friendly relations among the offender, the offended, and the community; and reassurance to the offender that he can be reintegrated into society. It also enhances public safety by tapping the offender, the victim and the community in crime prevention. The principle of restorative justice under RA 9344 must be appreciated in relation to the other rights of the child recognized by the law, including the right to diversion, one of the rights of the child recognized under the new law. Restorative justice is a departure from the system of retributive justice that involves the systematic infliction of punishment based on the belief that a wrong committed has created an imbalance in the social order that must be addressed by action against the criminal or the wrongdoer.
Why raise the age of criminal exemption from 9 to 15 years old?
– adolescence years are still formative years-
at this young age, there is a good chance for children to right their wrong and have a fresh start
– Experience in other countries have shown that young adolescents are willing to assume responsibility if they are given a chance
Will children in conflict with the law who are criminally exempt just go scot-free?
The use of the word “scot-free” indicates adherence to the old system of retributive justice. Being exempt from criminal liability, a child in conflict with the law is considered “free of blame” in the sense that he/she cannot be subject to court proceedings and later be punished with imprisonment. However, under the system of restorative justice, RA 9344 provides that children exempt from criminal liability shall undergo appropriate intervention programs, designed in consideration of several factors such as the circumstances of the child, the needs of the child, the influence of the family and environment on the growth of the child, and the ability and willingness of the parents/guardians to guide and supervise the child.
What is intervention?
“Intervention” refers to a series of activities designed to address issues that caused the child to commit an offense. It may take the form of an individualized treatment program, which may include counseling, skills training, education, and other activities that will enhance his/her psychological, emotional and psychosocial well-being. It may include general measures to promote social justice and equal opportunity, which tackle perceived root causes of offending. These shall include programs on advocacy, socio-economic service, health and nutrition, training and education. Measures to assist children at risk or protective services for children shall be provided. Intervention can also include measures to avoid unnecessary contact with the formal justice system and other measures to prevent re-offending, i.e., diversion programs, rehabilitation, reintegration and after care services.
Where will victims or parties aggrieved by CICL seek justice?
RA 9344 requires a paradigm shift – a departure from the belief that justice is only served if an offender is sent to jail. The law, by providing a system for intervention, diversion, and rehabilitation and reintegration for the children in conflict with the law and by providing for means of restoration for the offended party, is serving justice to both the offender and offended parties.
What will happen to CICL who commit heinous crimes such as rape or murder?
The treatment given the CICL depends first, on the age (if 15 years old or below or above 15); second, the fact of discernment (if the child who is above 15 years old acted with discernment); and third, the penalty imposed on the offense committed (if the child is above 15, acted with discernment and committed an offense with an imposable penalty of more than six years imprisonment). When the child above 15 who acted with discernment committed an offense with an imposable penalty of more than six years imprisonment (as in cases of rape or murder), the law provides that the child shall undergo court proceedings. When brought to court, the child may be placed under suspended sentence and be subjected to rehabilitation programs. If the CICL who is below 15 or above 15 but acted without discernment, the child is exempt from criminal responsibility regardless of the nature of the crime committed. These children will be given the appropriate intervention programs, which shall be designed after considering several factors including the nature and circumstances of the offense charged.
What is diversion?
Diversion refers to an alternative process in determining the responsibility and treatment of a CICL without resorting to formal court proceedings. Its mechanisms include conferencing, mediation and counseling. Diversion under the law should be done if the child is above 15 years old and acted with discernment and committed an offense with a penalty of not more than six years imprisonment. Diversion proceedings in this case may be conducted at the Katarungang Pambarangay level, at the level of the police, or at the inquest or preliminary investigation stage. If the penalty for the offense committed is not more than 12 years imprisonment, the court shall determine if diversion is appropriate. Among the diversion programs provided by the law are counseling, education and life skills training, and participation in community-based programs.
Won’t the new law embolden children to commit more crimes?
This concern relies heavily on the assumption that children committing crimes possess discernment or the mental capacity to understand the difference between right and wrong and its consequences. The law works on the premise that children who are 15 years old or below do not have such discernment and that CICL who are above 15 years old may still be acting without discernment. Children who are found to have committed offenses shall undergo intervention, diversion or rehabilitation and reintegration programs. These programs if successful should prevent children in conflict with the law from committing offenses in the future. Also, RA 9344 provides for the implementation of comprehensive national and local juvenile delinquency prevention programs to prevent children from committing offenses. Thus, the new law, contrary to the belief that it encourages crime, in fact institutionalizes a systematic approach to prevent children from being in conflict with the law.
Won’t the new law encourage criminal syndicates to employ children?
If the criminal syndicates are considered the problem, putting children in jail is not the solution. The law enforcement officers should endeavor to put the adult criminal syndicates to jail. Children are being used by these syndicates and should not be made to suffer deprivation of liberty for the criminal acts of the adults.