Pangilinan yields on review of youth offenders’ law

Acosta, who visited Pangilinan in Manila recently, said in her privilege speech at the City Council regular session Tuesday, that the senator was very receptive of the city government's feedback and has gathered reactions nationwide.  

Acosta said the senator's office has committed to work for the amendment of the law.    

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who has publicly hit the law and principal author Pangilinan, sent the senator a position paper prepared by the City Legal Office two weeks ago stressing his opposition to the new law, Acosta said.

With the new law, children under 15 cannot be charged with a crime. For 15 to 18 year old juveniles, diversion proceedings away from the court are the preferred method for responding to crimes that carry a possible sentence of six years or less.

Duterte earlier called the 13th Congress which passed the legislation last year as "stupid copycat" for allowing its passage “without in depth study."

Acosta said Duterte's position focused on his opposition to the age requirement, the need to provide protection for victims of crimes perpetrated by minors, and the questionable lack of mandatory provision for budgetary allocation to build institutions for juvenile reform.

Duterte has blamed the law for alleged troubles caused to local government units nationwide, especially in curbing criminality.

He said crimes committed by youth offenders have increased in the city despite the passage of the law, thus prompting him to  push for the creation of an anti-hoodlum unit that could focus on the matter.

Vice Mayor Sara Duterte welcomed Acosta’s news.

Councilor Danilo Danyanghirang, who heads the city council's committee on peace and public safety, said they are also wrapping up a committee report on the issue for the city council's official stand.

He said they are through with police statistics showing the increase but are validating with reports from the city' barangay officials.

Dayanghirang said the city government plans to call for support from the other LGUs around Mindanao to push for the amendments of the law.

In earlier interviews with the local media, Pangilinan said children in conflict with the law who have committed serious offenses such as murder, homicide, rape, physical injury and other crimes will not be released but will be sent to a rehabilitation facility.

Duterte said earlier the city government is investing on a P50-million facility for that purpose, but not all LGUs can afford to do that.  

The senator had earlier admitted the problem on infrastructures, the availability of social workers and information dissemination as among the areas for improvement.

President Arroyo recently signed an executive order calling on the Department of Justice and the Public Attorneys Office to work for the immediate release of hundreds of underage offenders still languishing in jail despite the enactment of the law in April 2006. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)