Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Give Juvenile Justice law a chance

We oppose the proposal to amend the Juvenile Justice law and bring the age of criminal liability back to nine years old. With all due respect to its proponent, reverting to the age of nine is a huge leap backwards in the campaign to uphold and defend the rights of children. In addition, the proposal ignores our country’s commitment to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Philippines is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child, which, in Article 40 stipulates that “States Parties recognize the right of every child alleged as, accused of, or recognized as having infringed the penal law to be treated in a manner consistent with the promotion of the child's sense of dignity and worth, which reinforces the child's respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of others and which takes into account the child's age and the desirability of promoting the child's reintegration and the child's assuming a constructive role in society.

The law crafted in 2006 was based on research studies by child rights and child psychology experts. Can the same be said of the same proposal now being brought forth? I want to hear the explanation of the proponents, and am ready to debate the matter in plenary.

We reiterate our previous position that the problem is not the law but the failure of government to fund it and implement it. It has been hailed as a landmark piece of legislation that was for four years unfunded by the Arroyo administration.

When President Aquino took over in 2010 the council tasked to oversee its full implementation nationwide had no office of its own. It only had five employees and had no appointed executive director. The previous administration refused to fund the law despite repeated appeals by this representation in no less than three LEDAC meetings chaired by no less than former President Arroyo. She ignored our pleas.

No law can hope to be effectively implemented if it is not funded. With only five employees, no executive director, and no office of its own it had no chance of succeeding. It was only when PNoy took over that the intended amount of funds for the law was finally released.

We should give the law a chance to be implemented before we even go around to amending it.

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