Presidential aspirant Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and his running mate Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano today pushed for the amendment of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, whose loopholes they said are being exploited by crime and drug syndicates to use children for illegal activities.
"Sobra na ang gulo kaya sobra na ang hirap ng tao. In many cases, drug traffickers use minors as couriers, a modus operandi made rather convenient by the law. Often times, these guys just go scot-free and grow up with no sense of accountability," Duterte said.
"It's time to bring back order and keep our kids off the streets as we wage an all-out war against organized crime," he added.
The tandem said the minimum age of criminal liability should be lowered from 15 to 12 years old, noting that moral autonomy usually develops as early as age 10. For repeat offenders, they said a new provision should be inserted so that those above 15 but below 18, who were subjected to a diversion program and are not first-time violators, shall be treated as adult offenders.
Cayetano clarified, however, that minors would be placed in separate detention facilities and given the same rehabilitation, reintegration, and after-care services to ensure their normal growth. He said tough anti-crime measures must go hand in hand with restorative justice when it comes to children in conflict with the law (CCIL).
"Sa kamay na bakal na pupuksa sa krimen, may kamay na aaruga sa nais magbago at magbalik loob sa batas. Ito ang tatak Duterte-Cayetano," the senator said.
The duo is also studying the possibility of aggravating the punishment for adults who try to exploit minors and use them in carrying out their criminal activities.
“Our goal in pushing for these amendments is to end the disorder in the streets. Through this, we reduce the number of crimes committed by minors and protect them from notorious criminals and syndicates who take advantage of their vulnerabilities,” Cayetano said.
There are over 11,000 CICL in the country as of 2009, the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council (JJWC) reported. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) observed that most of these CICL are between 14 and 17 years old, but some cases involve much younger children. #