[Statement] Statement on the proposed amendments to Republic Act 9344 – CLAN

By: Children’s Legal Advocacy Network (CLAN)

The Children’s Legal Advocacy Network (CLAN), a coalition of fifteen strong non-government and peoples’ organizations, respectively, that promotes and protects
the rights and welfare of children, vehemently opposes the amendment of
Republic Act 9344 particularly section 6 of the said law.

CLAN believes that Section 6 of RA 9344 is neither unjust nor arbitrary; in fact it
is backed by scientific research and is based on the framework of Restorative
Justice. The said provision does not only exempt certain group of minors from
criminal liability, but it also provides for the tools to ensure that these minors are
rehabilitated and ultimately integrated with the society.

The proposed amendment runs counter to the Constitutionally-recognized role of
the youth in nation building and the rights of the child to protection enshrined in
the various international human rights instruments specifically by the UN
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The CRC, to which the Philippines
had acceded by its signature and ratification, provides, among others, the right of
children to protection against all forms of violence; the said Convention also
benchmarks the deprivation of liberty as a last resort. This was complemented
with the 1985 UN Beijing Rules on the administration of Juvenile Justice. Thus,
by the proposed amendments, It is unfortunate that children rights have to suffer
as in its present context the proposed amendment has gone beyond the human
rights principles and lack in its entirety a sense of justice for the children in
conflict with the law.

Placing a child below 15 years of age in the grueling system of criminal
procedure embodies degradation and disrespect on the rights of the child to a life
of dignity and full human development. It further runs smacks to the principle of
“child’s best interest” and supplants the very essence of democracy and the total
disregard of the welfare of a child The proposed amendment will only favor
condemnation rather than rehabilitation and reintegration to society of a child in
conflict with the law.

The statement in the proposed amendment that “children below 15 years of are
already capable of discernment “, is merely an opinion and there is no scientific
data or studies to support this opinion.

Majority of CLAN members have been providing direct services to children in
conflict with the law (CICL) in the form of either direct legal assistance or
educational programs. Having been working on the ground with CICL, CLAN
observed that RA 9344 lacks execution and majority of the suppose
implementers of RA 9344 are still in the process of learning the law especially on
the provisions on Diversion. In directly working with CICL concerns, CLAN
witnessed how some local government units fail to perform their roles in the
Diversion program for CICL, which is mandated by RA 9344.

In fact, there have been documented testimonies of some barangay members
showing their ignorance on the implementation of RA 9344 especially on
Diversion programs.

CLAN also observed that most barangays do not even have a Barangay Council
for the Protection of Children that will address children’s rights violations
including that of CICL concerns. Some CLAN members even assisted LGUs in
the establishment of BCPC especially in Barangay Bagong Silang in Caloocan
and in Mapulang Lupa, Valenzuela.

Thus, the proposed amendments should not punish the child. It must address
how to effectively implement the law and provides for stricter penalties to the duty
bearers and State implementers who failed to execute the law in accordance with
the provision of RA 9344 especially on Diversion. RA 9344 was just enacted into
law last 2006 and at this stage, the law must first be disseminated widely, and
not amended.

Amendment is not a solution to the failure of the duty bearers to effectively
implement RA 9344. It is not the answer for the State’s failure to analyze and
understand the oppressive and unjust social conditions of children in conflict with
the law that forced the children to a life of lawlessness, thus adopts a myopic and
heartless solution of criminalizing children in especially difficult circumstances.

We challenged the policy-makers to personally look at the conditions of children
in jails and their lives of abject poverty that thrusts them to commit crimes,
observe the slow pace of the criminal justice system and the failure of the
implementers of law to formulate programs and mechanisms for the CICL’s
rehabilitation and reintegration to society that lead CICL to go back to the streets.
The State has to fulfill its human rights obligations and break the culture of impunity that has permeated every aspect of the government system such that it
has become a license for the wanton omission of State obligations.

Be that as it may, the Children’s Legal Advocacy Network (CLAN) enjoins the
duty bearers and implementers of RA 9344 to effectively implement the said law
to address the inhumane situation of the children in conflict with the law who are
condemned to a life of dehumanization as they are more seen as criminals, not
as victims, and more importantly, not as children. CLAN recommends that an
inquiry be undertaken why the letters of RA 9344 are not well implemented and
why CICL continue to suffer in a cramped, stinky, crowded jail facilities without
the prospects of rehabilitation as a result of the said environment they are
currently situated.

Children’s Legal Advocacy Network (CLAN)

Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center (CLRDC)
401-B, 4/F, CRM Building
106 Kamias, Quezon City
Tel No./Fax 4333199
childrenslegalrights@gmail.com; children_legalrights@yahoo.com

Children’s Rights Watch (CRW)
Child Justice League (CJL)
Kapatirang Komunidad Peoples Coalition(KKPC), Barangay Tatalon,Quezon City
KKPC Youth Federation
Kokkyonaki Kodomotachi (Children Without Borders) – Philippines
Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng Maralitang Lungsod (KPML)
Legal Aid Center for Human Rights (LACHR)
Moro Human Rights Center (MHRC)
Open Heart Foundation
Peoples Partner for Democracy and Development (PPDD)
Teachers Dignity Coalition
Third World Movement Against the Exploitation of Women and Children
Zone One Tondo Organization (ZOTO)

4 thoughts on “[Statement] Statement on the proposed amendments to Republic Act 9344 – CLAN

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