Table of Contents Hide
- What Is Juvenile Delinquency in the Philippines?
- What Are the Causes of Juvenile Delinquency in the Philippines?
- The Nature of Juvenile Delinquency and Rehabilitation in the Philippines
- The Juvenile Justice System in the Philippines Leads to Poor Reintegration
- Bahay Pag-Asa and Molave Center for Youth Offenders
- How the Law Has Failed in Youth Crimes and Exacting Juvenile Justice
- Talks About Lowering the Age of Criminal Liability Put Forward
The Philippines, like any other country, suffers from a plethora of social issues perpetuated by poverty and the inability to bridge the gap between social ranks. From the lack of access to good education to widespread unemployment, there are numerous reasons why crime rates continue to fluctuate year after year. One of the most pressing issues in the Philippines, however, is the issue of juvenile delinquency. The number of juvenile delinquents documented each year has been attributed to poverty, but advocates and pundits claim that the problem lies largely in the failure of the State to properly deal with the so-called “children in conflict with the law” (CICL). In this article, we will discuss what juvenile delinquency is in the Philippines, what the possible causes are, and how the law sees incidences of juvenile delinquency.
What Is Juvenile Delinquency in the Philippines?
Juvenile delinquency refers to criminal acts performed by children under the age of 18. According to statistics released by the Philippine National Police from 2012 to 2015, about 60 percent of juvenile crimes fall under crimes against property. These include theft, robbery, malicious mischief and estafa, statistics by the PNP from 2012 to 2015 revealed.
On the other hand, crimes against persons, which include rape, attempted rape, acts of lasciviousness, physical injuries, murder, attempted murder, seduction, grave threats, abduction, and homicide, constitute 36 percent of the crimes committed by children covering the same period.
The last 4 percent of crimes committed by children in the Philippines from 2012 to 2015 involved violations of special laws, such as Republic Act (RA) 9165 (prohibited drugs), Presidential Decree 1866 (illegal possession of firearms) and Presidential Decree 1602 (illegal gambling).
While children and teenagers primarily figured in petty crimes, youth offenders are allegedly getting younger and bolder. Some children are now figuring in heinous crimes that would send them to jail for life. In 2015, theft, physical injury and rape were the top 3 crimes committed by children. Theft cases recorded in 2015 reached 3,715, while physical-injury cases totaled 1,859. Rape cases involving child perpetrators reached 642.
While the number of juvenile delinquents in the Philippines is astounding, laws protect them from being put on trial as adults. The State and laws put in place prioritize their welfare, rehabilitation, and reintegration into society, allowing CICLs to improve their lives after the crimes they’ve committed in the past.
However, while the laws of the land aim to protect these children, the rehabilitation programs remain wanting, with some reformative aspects of the Philippine Juvenile Justice Law not being implemented well due to a lack of financial support from the government or the absence of housing programs that should be designed for their welfare during their supposed trials. Unfortunately, these not only affect the success of rehabilitation, but also exposes children to the risk of abuses within the system.
What Are the Causes of Juvenile Delinquency in the Philippines?
The causes of Philippine juvenile delinquency can be attributed to a plethora of issues in society, with the authorities pointing to poverty as the driving factor in pushing children to commit crimes. With a large percentage of juvenile delinquencies consisting of theft and robbery, this assumption may not be far from the truth. However, there are other possible causes that may also influence children into committing crimes, including:
Abuse and Trauma
A number of children in the Philippines are subjected to psychological and physical abuse in their own households. The psychological effect of these abuses not only causes near-irreversible trauma, but also increases the risk of criminal behavior in later life. Studies show that child maltreatment can double the chance that a child may become a delinquent during their adolescent stage and up to adulthood.
A significant percentage of children in the Philippines grow up in environments where they are exposed to crime and misdemeanors. Children are highly impressionable, which may lead them to recreate the criminal doings that they’ve either experienced or seen. This is highly observable in marginalized communities, where children may be exposed to crime and misdemeanors at a young age, offering a perspective that it is either normal or excusable.
One of the possible causes of juvenile delinquency in the Philippines is the machinations of syndicates all over the country. Recent reports show that syndicates operating in the Philippines are taking advantage of the statutes of juvenile justice. Syndicates use minors as implements and shields to perpetrate crime, making them more susceptible to being used by criminals to further their operations.
Lack of Access to Proper Education
Some juvenile delinquents in the Philippines fall at school age range, with most of them not having access to traditional education due to financial constraints or family issues. Formal education not only equips children with essential skills that they can bring into adulthood, but it also gives them priceless information about their actions’ potential consequences. According to studies, the higher the educational attainment that a child has access to, the lower their desire to take part in criminal activities. However, due to the inability of marginalized youth to be educated and given proper exposure to moral guidance, some children are pushed into a life of crime.
Extensive Access to Technology
Technological know-how had opened doors for these children to be better acquainted with the world around them. According to the explanatory note of the HB 922 of Party-list Reps. Irwin C. Tieng, Mariano Michael M. Velarde Jr. and Jose L. Atienza Jr., “The massive influence of modern communication has brought minors immense awareness of their surroundings,” the Explanatory Note further added. “Minors these days are more mature, and their perspective in life has greatly improved as compared to minors 10 years ago. Accordingly, it is but timely to have our laws reviewed to adapt to the demands of the times.”
The Nature of Juvenile Delinquency and Rehabilitation in the Philippines
Juvenile Justice in the Philippines is dictated by Republic Act No. 9344, with a specific focus on the stages involving “children at risk and children in conflict with the law, from prevention to rehabilitation and reintegration.” It covers children who have been accused or charged with a crime, allowing them to be separated from hardened criminals and adult offenders when institutionalized after arrest. This law presents Juvenile Justice as a structure that helps support minors when they go into conflict with the law. These include proceedings that are age-appropriate for children as well as programs and rehabilitation institutions primarily designed to help CICLs to reintegrate themselves into society after a probationary period.
This Republic Act was passed as an effort to improve the conditions of children in detention. According to UNICEF, this legislative breakthrough that was passed in 2006 “was a landmark that gave many children around the Philippines a new lease on life.” Before this law passed, thousands of children were exposed to subhuman conditions and were at high risk of abuse as they were mixed with adult criminals. Not only were they at risk of suffering from health conditions, such as tuberculosis, HIV, and pneumonia, but they also suffer from scarce food supplies and were at high risk of suffering from both sexual and physical abuse while in detention. Party-list Reps. Irwin C. Tieng, Mariano Michael M. Velarde Jr. and Jose L. Atienza Jr.
Republic Act No. 9344 indicates that children under 15 years of age cannot be held criminally liable, while children between 15 and 18 need to undergo intervention and rehabilitation after committing a crime.
The Juvenile Justice System in the Philippines Leads to Poor Reintegration
While the law was designed to offer CICLs with much-needed support and restorative programs, it cannot be said that it is being enacted by the authorities and the rehabilitation institutions. According to a leftist group, Karapatan, CICLs are prone to human rights abuses. In fact, even before a court of law finds them guilty of a crime, they already end up in juvenile facilities or, worse, detention where they suffer psychological and emotional trauma as adult criminal offenders do while in detention.
In addition, DSWD facilities that operate primarily for CICLs do not get enough support to offer adequate therapy and psychosocial assistance to support Juvenile Justice in the Philippines. According to Secretary-General of Karapatan, Cristina Palabay, “Children in conflict with the law often end up behind bars like common criminals even inside facilities run by the DSWD or LGUs.” In some instances, due to the lack of proper infrastructures for children, the authorities are forced to mix CICLs with adults, with girls being held in the same cells as women.
The lack of adequate support and specialized facilities have made rehabilitation and reintegration for CICLs more challenging, with the authorities not being able to handle a number of CICLs due to the lack of funds and the absence of a clear system.
According to the US State Department’s 2011 Country Report on Human Rights Practices, “From January to November , Bureau of Jail Management and Penology [BJMP] and Philippine National Police [PNP] jails held 66,825 prisoners, 95 percent of whom were pretrial detainees. The remainder had been convicted of various crimes. Of the total number of prisoners and detainees, 6,107 were adult women and 501 were minors. During the same period, the BJMP released 104 minor inmates, usually in response to a court order following a petition by the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) or the inmate’s private lawyer or through NGO-led appeals.”
Bahay Pag-Asa and Molave Center for Youth Offenders
Fortunately, moves have been made to improve the Juvenile Justice System in the Philippines, with former Interior Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento calling to LGUs to improve their juvenile integration programs. Together with this call, the Juvenile Justice Welfare Council released guidelines for local government units to follow to develop a Comprehensive Local Juvenile Intervention Program (CLJIP). These guidelines include budget allocation, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of the CLJIP.
In addition, under the law, LGUs were required to put up and manage intervention and support centers called the “Bahay Pag-asa.” These are 24-hour child-caring institutions established, funded, and managed to provide residential care for children in conflict with the law. CICLs who are at least 12 years old can be committed to these youth-care facilities where they can be cared for and monitored by licensed professionals and individuals.
For example, Quezon city, which is one of the most progressive cities in the Philippine, has its Molave Youth Home as a way to support Juvenile Justice in the Philippines. The facility is located at the Social Services Development Department (SSDD) building behind the City Hall. Molave provides temporary custody and care to youth offenders between 9 and 17 while undergoing trial.
A 2005 Gawad Galing Pook awards for pioneering work in the rehabilitation of youth offenders, as well as their reintegration to society, Molave is being run and managed by the city’s SSDD. At Molave, youth offenders get the chance to make the most of their life while waiting for the judge’s verdict.
While the system is far from being perfect today, moves are now being implemented to improve how CICLs are being handled to achieve maximum rehabilitation and reintegration back into their family units and into society.
How the Law Has Failed in Youth Crimes and Exacting Juvenile Justice
In the Philippines it is not the first time that a teenager has committed heinous crimes. Youth offenders are becoming braver and delving into more serious crimes. From petty street crimes, they are now figuring in heinous crimes that would send them to jail for life, or worse, join the death row in the absence of the Juvenile Justice law; the implementation of which is now also being considered by some lawmakers to deter the commission of drug-related heinous crimes.
But children at risk or children in conflict with the law are more vulnerable to human-rights abuse. Hence, they need effective intervention to correct their behavior.
The law, however, seemed to fail in curbing the number of children getting involved in crimes. Worse, those involved in petty and even serious crimes are getting younger and younger, some committing crimes like robbery-holdup, murder, illegal drug use and peddling, prompting some lawmaker to think about lowering the age of criminal responsibility.
Talks About Lowering the Age of Criminal Liability Put Forward
In recent years, the talks about lowering the age of criminal liability to 12 years old have been put forward in a move to “teach them to understand responsibility.” In 2016, Former House Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez and Rep. Fredenil H. Castro of the Second District of Capiz filed House Bill (HB) 002 in the newly opened 17th Congress.
Dubbed “An Act Amending Republic Act 9344, As Amended by Republic Act 10630, and Reverting the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility from 15 Years Old to 9 Years Old,” the amendment seeks to lower criminal liability from the current 15 years old to 9 years old.
Both representatives explained the “necessity” of such an amendment in their Declaration of Policy:
“It is the policy of the state to ensure that the Filipino youth shall be taught to accept responsibility for their words and deeds as early as possible, and not to unduly pamper them with impunity from the criminal responsibility upon reaching the age of 9 years.”
The authors of the bill were particularly concerned about juvenile delinquents in the Philippines being used by syndicates in the commission of a crime, namely, drug trafficking.
The same was clarified and reinforced in their Explanatory Note: “While the intent of protection of the Filipino youth may be highly laudable, its effects have had the opposite effects—the pampering of youthful offenders who commit crimes knowing they can get away with it.”
With this reform, juvenile delinquents in the Philippines can be put on trial for crimes they’ve committed and convicted as adults. Proponents of this reform have cited the fact that syndicates and criminals have learned to exploit young children in the drug trade and syndicate operations.
However, this was met with significant uproar as citizens expressed their disagreement with the reform, citing that by lowering the age of criminal liability, the Philippines will also be exposing children to a high risk of human rights abuses when they are convicted. With a justice system that can be highly manipulated, lowering the age of criminal liability does not only endanger the lives of children, but also further oppress the marginalized youth, who are, more often than not, pushed to commit petty crimes to survive.
Organizations and political groups called the reform irresponsible and pushed for the full implementation of the Philippine Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act instead. With juvenile support institutions still lacking budget and support from the government, lowering the age of criminal responsibility just means that the State has failed in their move to protect the youth from abuse and exploitation.
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