Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte blames former senator Francis Pangilinan, the author of Republic Act (RA) 9344 or the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act of 2006, for emboldening the youth to commit crimes.
Duterte, in a recent interview, explained that while he recognizes the good intention of the law, it also makes children grow up without a sense of accountability since they are not punished for crimes they commit.
“I hate to bring this matter up because he is my friend, but I squarely blame [Pangilinan for letting kids get away with it because] he is the author of the law,” the mayor said, referring to RA 9344.
The law exempts minors aged 15 and below from any criminal liability.
Before the enactment of the Pangilinan law, the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) was nine under Presidential Decree (PD) 1179, Section 189, which states, “A child nine years of age or under at the time of the offense shall be exempt from criminal liability and shall be committed to the care of his or her father or mother, or nearest relative or family friend in the discretion of the court and subject to its supervision.”
RA 9344 also provides, “The same shall be done for a child over nine years and under fifteen years of age at the time of the commission of the offense, unless he acted with discernment, in which case he shall be proceeded against in accordance with Article 192.”
Because of the Pangilinan law, Duterte said, children involved in crimes are released from jail because police are not allowed to detain them.
“These are the guys who grow up with no sense of accountability, they are in and out of jail, [and]here in Manila [where]it is money or your life [that they want you to part with]… they will really kill you [for it],” the tough-talking mayor said.
Criminal syndicates are also taking advantage of the juvenile justice law by using children as couriers of illegal drugs because they know that if children are caught in possession of the prohibited substances, they will only be placed under the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
The DSWD is in charge of looking after youth offenders by putting in place a system and a program for rehabilitating them.
In 2013, RA 9344 was amended by RA 10630 that pave way for the creation of Bahay Pag-asa, a child-caring institution established, funded and managed by local government units (LGUs) and licensed to provide short-term residential care for children aged 13 to 17 who are awaiting court disposition, repeat offenders and those considered neglected, abandoned or abused.
But based on a report of the DSWD, only 19 LGUs have put up Bahay Pag-asa shelters since the implementation of RA 10630, with only one in Metro Manila in Marikina City.
“You do not go to this kind of set-up without providing the space and money. In crafting a law like this one, there should be a provision that will make it mandatory for the local government units or the national government for establishment of correctional institutions or else [the]juvenile delinquents will just go in and out of jail,” Duterte said.
The standard-bearer of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan in the 2016 elections, he is in favor of lowering the age of criminal accountability to 9.
Those aged 11-12 , according to the mayor, will be judged first whether they acted with criminal intent.
If elected President, Duterte vows to bring back the death penalty for drug lords, rapists, kidnappers, robbers and plunderers.