LETTER TO THE EXECUTIVE EDITOR

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December 28, 2015

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MR. DANTE ANG II
(Executive Editor)
Manila Times
Intramuros, Manila

Dear Mr. Ang:

Greetings!

WE are writing to clarify the issues raised by Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte in the news article written by your reporter Mr. Jefferson Antiporda and published in your newspaper on December 15.

In the article, Mayor Duterte was quoted saying that Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, authored by Senator Francis Pangilinan, emboldens the youth to commit crimes.

As chair of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council (JJWC), the Department of Social and Welfare and Development would like to clarify this statement of Mayor Duterte.

We would like to emphasize that contrary to the widespread belief that children 15 years old and below who commit offenses are allowed to go “scot-free.” Instead, they are provided with appropriate intervention programs, either community-based or center-based, that will allow them to become accountable and responsible for the offenses that they have allegedly committed without subjecting them to the adult criminal justice system.

Under Republic Act 9344, a child in conflict with the law (CICL) who is above 12 but below 15 years who committed a serious crime (i.e. rape, murder parricide, robbery with homicide) shall be mandatorily placed under the Intensive Juvenile Intervention and Support Center (IJISC) of the Bahay Pag-Asa for a minimum period of one (1) year. This means that the child will be separated from his family and community for such a period of time.

A ‘Bahay Pag-asa’ is a 24-hour child-caring institution that offers short-term residential care for CICL who are:

1) above 12 to 15 years of age who committed serious crime with commitment order issued by the court;

2) above 12 to 15 years of age who are repeat offenders and previously subjected to a community-based intervention;

3) above 15 to below 18 years of age, and awaiting court disposition and;

4) above 12 to below 18 years of age who are considered to be neglected, abandoned, or abused.

The DSWD firmly upholds the principle of “restorative justice rather than punitive justice” for CICL. Restorative Justice refers to the principle which requires a process of resolving conflicts with the maximum involvement of the victim, the offender, and the community. It seeks to obtain reparation for the victim; reconciliation of the offender, the offended, and the community; and reassurance to the offender that he/she can be reintegrated into society. It also enhances public safety by involving the offender, the victim, and the community in prevention strategies.

CICL are victims of circumstances beyond their control. Thus, they should be treated as individuals with problems who need help and have to be provided with appropriate assistance and services, to ensure the full protection of their rights for survival, protection, development, and participation.

Several years of experience show that the process of going through the formal criminal justice system can be harmful to children in many ways and make them likely to remain criminals. Instead of putting child offenders in jail together with hardened criminals, jeopardizing their physical and psychological well-being and their development, there should be centers and youth homes to accommodate them.

Consequently, RA 9344 as amended was also nominated in the World Future Policy Awards for 2015. This award giving body recognizes best laws and policies in the world that secure child rights.

We hope that this clarification finds space in your newspaper.

Thank you!

Very truly yours,

Director CEZARIO JOEL C. ESPEJO
DSWD Social Marketing Service

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