Senator seeks suspension of juvenile protection law for lack of facilities

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/19 April) – Senator Francis Escudero said he would seek the suspension of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 for lack of adequate facilities and support services, and to revert to the old law dealing with youthful offenders.

The proposal would be debated in the plenary on May 9, he said, and the proposal would emanate from the Senate committee on justice and human rights, after several local governments continued to gripe over the impunity of minors who commit crimes “because of the law”.

“We would like the implementation of the law suspended because there are no facilities to handle the child offenders. What usually happens is to free them,” he said.

“There are a lot of complaints that child offenders continue to get out of criminal and civil liability due to lack of facilities to correct them. In the end children just easily walk out of authorities,” he told a news briefing on Saturday.

Senators were divided on the proposal to suspend it, he said.  “We would be reverting back to the old [Child and Youth Welfare Code] until the Senate can be convinced that there have been adequate facilities already,” he explained.

Escudero was the guest speaker in the graduation rites of the Davao Medical School Foundation here, the city where the Commission on Human Rights also investigated authorities on their alleged inaction on the sporadic killings of minors involved in the illegal drug trade.

Former mayor and now Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, one of the local officials who did not hide their indignation said the law “heightened the impunity to commit crimes among minors” and warned that the law has developed a culture of disrespect for authorities and established order.

In 2008, for instance, Duterte cited that minors were already carrying cedulas (residence certificates) “as their identification cards” to present to arresting officers.

In his visit here last year to hear the plight of the banana industry, Sen. Francis Pangilinan, author of Republic Act 9344, or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, was asked to assess the implementation of the law and admitted its infirmed implementation.

He blamed government’s failure to allocate funds to support services and institutions, such as hiring of more social workers, building of more holding facilities and educating police personnel on the proper appraisal of the criminal liability of offenders. (MindaNews)