By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz
As the nation commemorates the 13th year of the effectivity of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act (JJWA), child rights advocates reiterated their appeal to legislators not to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) and instead fully implement the law.
According to the Child Rights Network (CRN), the JJWA is a landmark legislation, hailed at the international level as a progressive measure to protect and promote the rights of children in conflict with the law (CICL).
Signed into law on April 28, 2006, the JJWA took effect on May 20, 2006.
Guided by the principles of restorative justice, CRN said the JJWA has all the necessary components to prevent juvenile delinquency, hold CICL accountable for their offenses and provide assistance to their victims, and rehabilitate and reintegrate CICL to society.
“As Congress resumes its sessions following the long midterm elections break, we reiterate the ardent call to our senators: the best way when it comes to addressing the supposed increase in criminality involving children is to maximize and strengthen the implementation of the JJWA and not just haphazardly lower the MACR,” CRN convenor Romeo Dongeto said.
Senate Bill No. 2198, which seeks to amend provisions of the JJWA, including the lowering of the MACR, is currently on second reading and is in the period of interpellation and debate.
There are only nine session days left before the 17th Congress officially adjourns.
“What Congress enacted 13 years ago, Republic Act 9344, a landmark legislation that specifically addresses the needs of CICL situation as well as children at risk. Periodic assessments of the law prove that much remains to be desired when it comes to its full implementation. Yet here we are now, with the Senate at the verge of instituting a new law that will only do further harm than help to Filipino children,” Dongeto said.
Based on a tally monitored by CRN, about nine senators are currently supporting SB 2198, nine are against, while five remain undecided.
“The House of Representatives has already passed its version of the bill, while the Senate version is already on second reading. We are counting on our esteemed senators to use sound reasoning and stop this imminent disaster from happening. We fervently hope that their sole driver in promulgating any policy must be the best interest of the child,” Dongeto said.