Senator blames previous administration for lame impact of 2006 juvenile law

December 6, 2010

Manuel T. Cayon
December 5, 2010
Business Mirror

DAVAO CITY—Sen. Francis Pangilinan said inadequate funding and the mishandling of juvenile crimes have caused much of the indignation among local governments complying with the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 and what they perceive to be impunity among the youth to commit crimes.

Pangilinan blamed the Arroyo administration for limiting the allocation to only about one-fifth of the P300-million requirement of the law that includes the full staffing of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council and improving the holding centers of the Department of Social Welfare and Development  (DSWD) and its counterpart agencies in the local governments, and the hiring of social workers.

“They only funded a fourth or a fifth of that amount,” he told reporters here on Friday after they conducted a Senate public hearing on the issue about the slowdown of Iran’s imports on Philippine bananas. The council, for instance, hired only five staff “who are in charge of the national implementation of the law.”

What suffered most was the hiring of the social workers and putting up more holding and rehabilitation centers for youth offenders, he told the BusinessMirror later. He said this problem was compounded by the “misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the law about juvenile crimes.”

“When the child commits a heavy offense, authorities should not release the child because this would be detrimental to their welfare,” he said.

Local officials, including Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, have repeatedly blamed the juvenile law that Pangilinan authored. In one of his statements late last year during the regular television public-affairs program of the city government here, he said the law would be the single reason why “we would expect a national outbreak of criminalities perpetrated by the youth because they know they cannot be imprisoned for any offense.”

“The youth engage in gang war, they are used by adult criminals as Akyat Bahay robbers, they do not fear the authorities any more. What is most dreadful now is when these young people totally lose their respect for authorities and the law,” he said.

Several local chief executives in Mindanao have also aired dismay at the restriction of the law.

Local officials and the police said the law has compelled them to release arrested youth offenders to either the parents, guardians or social workers of the DSWD or their counterpart local government agencies.

Supreme Court acting administrator Nimfa Vilches told a local television here last week that it would file with the Senate its proposal to lower the age requirement of the juvenile law that would not be covered with imprisonment term.

Pangilinan said he was amenable to the proposed amendment by the Supreme Court and while he believed that the law has not been fully tested in the country, “these two actions would go hand in hand, they can be both implemented fully, and the age requirement can be lowered.”

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