CURRENT societal realities are a major contributing factor to the involvement of children in criminal and anti-social acts. Based on the 2016 data from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, about 10,000 children engaged in criminal activities came from poor families with six to eight members on the average, and were accused of theft and other property-related offenses. The Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act acknowledges that children who fall under these situations are victims of socio-economic situations.
The truth is that for as long as children and their families are stuck in the quagmire of poverty, criminal acts, whether by adult or children, will continue to proliferate. Thus after all things are said and done, the government should go beyond strengthening the implementation of the law to prove its seriousness in the campaign against criminality. Responsive programs and policies to address poverty, including regular jobs generation with liveable wages for parents, genuine land reform and access to free basic social services such as health and education, should be among its top priorities.
And so we ask, is there really a need to amend the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act to lower the age of criminal responsibility, currently at 15 years old?
The persistence of “child offending” in the country, mainly rooted from the failure of the government to address its root causes (extreme poverty due), will not be resolved by constantly amending the law governing the juvenile justice system without first sincerely implementing the enacted law and its amendments. In fact, the impact of Republic 10630 that was just enacted by Congress in 2014 has not yet been realized, and therefore leaving no concrete basis for re-amending the law at this point.
As a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Philippines is primarily responsible in ensuring the welfare of its children. It has the duty to care for children, especially the marginalized and most vulnerable, and in this premise the government should prioritize the full implementation of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act through formulating and seriously implementing a comprehensive and quality rehabilitation program for offending children and their families.