[Appeal] Letter to PNoy: Juvenile Justice Law must be effectively implemented, and the further recommendation that minimum age of criminal responsibility should not be lowered

His Excellency Benigno Simeon Aquino III
President, Republic of the Philippines
Malacanang Palace
JP Laurel Street , San Miguel, Manila 1005
Philippines
Dear His Excellency President Aquino,

We, the Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center (CLRDC), an NGO that monitors, documents, investigates and provides direct services to cases of violence against children, with special focus on children in conflict with the law and child sexual abuse through our direct legal assistance and awareness-raising program on children’s rights and the law, write with grave concern regarding House Bill 6052, amending the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 (a.k.a. Republic Act 9344), specifically on lowering the age of criminal responsibility The said bill has already passed the third reading in the House of Representatives on 4th June 2012, when the whole nation was glued at the Corona impeachment trial.

The CLRDC, together with our nationwide networks of community-based NGOs that promote human rights of all people, were saddened and at the same time alarmed by the hastily passage of HB 6052 at the House of Representatives,
This HB 6052 undermines all efforts to build a child friendly juvenile justice system that supports rehabilitation and reintegration. Moreover the most marginalized and neglected group of our society, children from very low socio-economic backgrounds, would even more have to suffer from degrading and humiliating treatments by being locked away in detention centers or jails; often even together with adults. All this runs counter to the principle of the “child´s best interest” and against the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), to which the Philippine government has acceded to.
The supporters of HB 6052 refer to unfounded and baseless reports that criminal gangs and syndicates are hiring minors in order to avoid arrest and prosecution. The logical solution would have to be to run after the gangs and prevent them from exploiting children by efficient police work, and not to punish the children. Why suffer the children for the ineffective implementation by the law enforcers of RA 9344.

Instead of amending a six-year old law, inefficiency in the implementation by local and law enforcement and authorities must be reviewed, let alone the alleged cases of torture committed against Children in Conflict with the Law (CICL) while they are being arrested and / or while being detained.

CLRDC and its nationwide networks of children’s organizations support the recommendations of Germany and Norway in the recent Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Philippines by the UN Human Rights Council, when they pronounced that Juvenile Justice Law must be effectively implemented, and the further recommendation that minimum age of criminal responsibility should not be lowered. Further recommendations by the European Delegations and majority of States during the UPR stressed the promotion and protection of the best interests of the child.

In this regard, we kindly appeal to your Excellency, to give RA 9344 a chance to be effectively implemented, Amendment is not the solution for the State implementers’ failure to fulfil and discharge its human rights obligations. Violations committed against CICL such as torture, as well as their inhumane conditions in jails must be investigated. Under no circumstances that House Bill 6052 is fair to our children! Consequences such as higher numbers of child prisoners will be a step backward on our common goal towards the full enjoyment of human rights by everyone.

Please find attached briefing paper on RA 9344 as well as factual information why RA 9344 should not be amended.

Thank you very much and sincerely,

Rowena Legaspi
Executive Director

The Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center, Inc. (CLRDC) is the Convener-Secretariat of Children’s Legal Advocacy Network (CLAN)[1], a coalition of NGOs that promotes the human rights of children.

Ateneo Human Rights Center (AHRC)
Child Justice League (CJL)
Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center (CLRDC)
Children’s Rights Action Watch
Kapatiran Komunidad Peoples Coalition (KKPC)
KKPC Youth Federation
Kokyo Naki Kodomotachi (Children Without Borders) – Philippines
Kongresong Pagkakaisa ng Maralitang Lungsod (KPML)
Legal Aid Center for Human Rights (LACHR)
Lingap-Kapwa Operasyong pang Dalita (LingKod)
Open Heart Foundation
Peoples Partner for Development and Democracy
Samahan ng Mamamayan – Zone One Tondo (SM-ZOTO)

[1] CLAN is a member of Juvenile Justice Partnership Network (JJPNet), a coalition of networks of networks that promotes the human rights of children in conflict with the law.

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