Is the Senate at loggerheads with the House over juvenile crime?

I have already discussed this topic in one of my columns, particularly about the fact that children are being used by unscrupulous criminals and/or crime syndicates to commit atrocities because they can escape liability. This is true in the case of illegal drugs syndicates where children below 18 are being used as couriers, among others, to avoid prosecution by exploiting the provisions of Republic Act (RA) 9344 otherwise known as the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act.

Section 6 of the Act states that a child 15 years of age or under at the time of the commission of the offense shall be exempt from criminal liability. However, the child shall be subjected to an intervention program pursuant to Section 20 of this Act.

Moreover, the Act also states 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.

While Section 7 of the same Act says a child in conflict with the law shall enjoy the presumption of minority, he/she shall enjoy all the rights of a child in conflict with the law until he/she is proven to be 18 years old or older.

I remember questioning the jurisprudence of the Senator Francis Pangilinan-sponsored Juvenile Justice Welfare Act then, as it runs in conflict with an existing law in terms of determining the age of discernment among minors to know what is right or wrong.

RA 7160 otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991 provides that young people aged 15 to 21 can take custody of all Sangguniang Kabataan property and funds not otherwise deposited with the city or municipal treasurer, collect and receive contributions, monies, materials, and all other sources intended for the Sangguniang Kabataan and Katipunan ng Kabataan and disburse funds in accordance with an approved budget of the Sangguniang Kabataan, among others.

Clearly, with all the responsibilities granted to them under RA 7160, 15-year-old youths are considered to have the proper discernment to know what is right or wrong. Meanwhile, under RA 7344, crime offenders aged below 18 years old are exempted from criminal liability, unless the atrocities were done with discernment. These two provisions of the law that provide the age when a person shall have discernment to know what is right or wrong are running in conflict with each other. Which law shall then apply in determining the age of discernment of offenders?

Can we consider the enactment of RA 7344 as a classic example of a legislative lapse or oversight that raised many questions in the public’s mind? How prudent and diligent are our legislators in passing laws? Did our legislators do their homework in passing the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act and checked whether its provisions are not in conflict with existing laws? Who should be accountable for such legislative lapse/oversight? Would filing for Declaratory Relief on the jurisprudence of the conflicting provisions of the two laws be appropriate at this time? Would there be existing laws that were passed mostly because of “pakikisama” (goodwill)? And what is holding our legislators from deciding expeditiously on the proposed amendments to the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act?

Meanwhile, as the two Houses of Congress, especially their oversight committees, are kept busy with a lot of other things than to amend the conflicting provisions of the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act, criminal syndicates continue to prey on the minors by using them in their criminal activities. And after watching the news on TV showing how a 16-year-old boy running away with a stolen tarp from a truck was caught, but endorsed only to the DSWD for intervention, who knows if the next victim of an even more heinous crime by a child offender could be you or someone you love. We certainly don’t want this to happen.       

Dr. Jesus Lim Arranza is the chairman of the Federation of Philippine Industries and Fight Illicit Trade; a broad-based, multisectoral movement intended to protect consumers, safeguard government revenues and shield legitimate industries from the ill effects of smuggling.


1 comment

  1. No thing new here. What we want to know, which Ms. Ignacios seems to be avoiding, is the status of
    the additional P1000 benefit for seniors.

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