Aquino signs new juvenile justice law

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President Benigno Aquino 3rd has signed into law a bill strengthening the country’s juvenile justice system.

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In a press briefing, Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte announced that the President on October 3 signed Republic Act 10630 which amended the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006.

The new law kept the age of criminal responsibility at 15 but set the minimum age of children committed to the youth care facility at 12.

Under the law, a child 15 years old and under at the time of the commission of the crime, will be exempted from criminal liability.

However, the said child shall be subjected to a community-based intervention program supervised by the local social welfare and development officer, unless the best interest of the child requires the referral of the child to a youth care facility or Bahay Pag-asa managed by local government units (LGUs) or licensed and/or accredited non-government organizations monitored by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

The law provides that a child above 15 years but below 18 years of age shall likewise be exempt from criminal liability and be subjected to an intervention program, unless he/she has acted with discernment, in which case, such child shall be subjected to the appropriate proceedings in accordance with this Act.

These minors can face civil liabilities in accordance with existing laws.

A child aged 12 to 15 who committed parricide, murder, infanticide, kidnapping and serious illegal detention where the victim is killed or raped, robbery, with homicide or rape, destructive arson, rape, or carnapping, among others, shall be deemed a neglected child under Presidential Decree No. 603 and will be mandatorily placed in a special facility within the youth care faculty or Bahay Pag-asa called the Intensive Juvenile Intervention and Support Center.

Repeat offenders, or children who have committed crimes more than three times, be considered as neglected children and, as such, must undergo intervention programs supervised by the local social welfare and development officers.

The law provides the maximum penalty for those who exploit children such as syndicates, for the commission of criminal offenses.

It also mandates the creation of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council (JJWC) to ensure the effective implementation of this Act.

As an attached agency of the DSWD, the JJWC shall be chaired by a DSWD undersecretary. The JJWC will be required to conduct a periodic study on the age of discernment to provide basis for a legislative review.

The law also provides assistance to victims of crimes committed by children. The amount necessary to carry out the provisions of this Act shall be charged against the current year’s appropriations of the JJWC under the budget of the Department of Justice.

“Thereafter, such sums as may be necessary for the continued implementation of this Act shall be included in the budget of the DSWD under the annual General Appropriations Act: Provided, that the amount of Four Hundred Million Pesos (P400,000,000.00) shall be appropriated for the construction of ‘Bahay Pag-asa’ rehabilitation centers in provinces or cities with high incidence of children in conflict with the law,” the law added. CATHERINE S. VALENTE

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