“The Philippine government must ensure not to lower the age of criminal responsibility” referring to the children in conflict with the law. This was one of the statements of Germany during the Inter-active dialogue at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Philippines by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva on 29 May 2012. Norway on the other hand recommends that the Juvenile Justice Law must be implemented effectively.
While the whole nation was glued last week at the Impeachment Trial of the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, the House of Representatives successfully gained ground in expediting the passage into the second readingof the amendment of the Juvenile Justice Law with regard to the age of criminal responsibility lowering it to twelve.
The current Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 also known as Republic Act 9344 is a law that promotes the rights of children in conflict with the law (CICL), as well as of children at risk. In the said law, the age of criminal responsibility is generally at fifteen above and the law provides for diversion programs for the rehabilitation and reintegration of CICL.
According to Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center (CLRD), an NGO that monitors, document and provides direct legal assistance to cases of CICL, it has interviewed and documented cases of CICL who experienced torture in the hands of law enforcers while they were being arrested. With the proposed amendment, CLRD remarked that children above 12 are more prone to abuses, which the implementers of the law failed to address by the current rate and incidents of CICL who suffer and endure torture, which youth homes call “learning experience”. Homosexual CICL aremore extremely discriminated especially in the context of involuntary servitude.Also, in its regular conduct of visits to detention centers of children, also known as “youth homes”, CLRD claimed that the structure of youth homes is typical detention cells – – crowded, dark, unventilated, stinky.
CLRD also added that in the course of its provision of orientation on children’s rights and the law to local government units, it learned that most local barangays that were given orientations were not keen to the nitty-gritty of the Juvenile Justice law.They want to know the law.
Rowena Legaspi, Executive Director of CLRD said: “The inhumane conditions of the CICL cannot be denied from the eyes of the international communities. Hence, during the UPR, most recommendations by foreign countries to the Philippine government were addressed to ensuring that any forms of torture and corporal punishment should be looked into.”
With the recommendations of Germany and Norway, explicitly ensuring effective implementation of the juvenile justice law, CLRD also challenge the honourable” members of Congress to immerse themselves with CICL, conduct surprise visit to children detention centers, go to the communities, and if they care enough, interview children victims of torture, before they can validly push for the lowering of the age of criminal responsibility.
“CICL are victims of unequal economic distribution – – deprived of a family life, education, and right to food, most of them are trafficking survivors. They are not criminals, they must be seen as victims, and most of all children”, CLRD said.
CLRD supports the recommendations of Germany and Norway and pronounced that “Juvenile Justice Law must be effectively implemented as amendment is not the solution for the State implementers’ failure to fulfil and discharge its human rights obligations to the children.” It further stressed that “lowering the age of criminal responsibility constitute a grave breach to the convention on the rights of the child which the Philippines has ratified and acceded to.”
Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center, Inc.
401-B, CRM Building, No. 106 Kamias Road, Quezon City
Tel. No. 4333199
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