Those who fall on the wrong side

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

WITH an increasing number of children in conflict with the law (CICL), what future awaits the nation?

Based on the data from Women and Children's Protection Desk (WCPD) of the Davao City Police Office (DCPO), it recorded a continuous increase of crimes committed by the children from 1,287 cases in 2010; 1,074 cases in 2011; 1,695 cases in 2012; to 2,106 cases committed last year, or totaling 6,162 cases.

Most of these are crimes involving robbery cases with 3,043, almost half the total of the crimes committed by the CICL.


Police Inspector Elisa Ramirez, acting chief of the WCPD, said cases of robbery will shoot up during the opening of classes.

"Pag-umpisa na ang klase lolobo ang theft and shoplifting sa malls," she said.

In several instances, she said many of these CICLs are usually tempted to steal from the malls like hair wax, chocolates, and hair clips for lack of money to buy them.

In all cases of CICLs, WCPD will tap the Quick Response Team (QRT) and try to reach the child's parents before proceeding to counseling.

For minor crimes, however, she said the counseling conducted by the social worker seems to be not enough, as some of the released children will commit the same crime again and they cannot be detained since those children below 15 years old cannot be held liable for crimes.

"That's why, we asked them to provide us birth certificates. Kung hindi nila kami bibigyan, kami na mismo ang kukuha para i-record at sa susunod na babalik sila sa kulungan, may maisa-submit na kami paramaka-file ng case," she said.

The law, Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice Act, became one of the most hotly debated topics, this being the reason considered why CICL cases are increasing.

"Before, ibabalik sa parents tapos walang criminal liability," she added.

"Paano kung ang parents wala din capacity na magdiscpline sa bata?"
At least now, the RA 9344, as amended by RA 10630, also known as "an act strengthening the Juvenile Justice System in the Philippines."

The amended Juvenile Justice Act provides that provinces, cities, and municipalities should put up "Pag-Asa Homes," a center-based rehabilitation centers for these children.

"At least ngayon klaro na kung heinous crime mandatory nailagay sa rehab," she said.

Children committing small crimes will also undergo counseling at the rehab center.

For now, there are some rehab centers in the city for the children. Among these are Davao City Rehabilitation Center for Drug Dependents for children caught in possession with drugs, Rehabilitation Center for Youth, and Lamdag Kabataan where some 30 children are currently housed.

With all these centers in place, Ramirez said it's a great relief for them where CICLs will be placed since they cannot put them where the adult criminals are.

After cases have been filed, all CICLs will be referred to Lamdag while waiting for the court order.

"Sa station walang detention cell sa minor so malaking tulong talaga. Dito parang center-based pa rin. Tinatanggap pa rin kahit filed case while waiting for the court order," she said.

There, at Lamdag, the social workers will establish intervention program for the children, along with their parents.

The city police is also coordinating with the Barangay Council for the Protection of the Children (BCPC) where CICLs and their parents both undergo case conference to find out what pushed them to do the crime.

"Ang QRT anytime, icontact pag-naay victim na kailangan nila og presensya. Sa handling sa bata, pagwalay parents you cannot proceed sa investigation, so ang social worker ang among gina-inform," she said.

For children aged 15 years above but below 18 years old, she explained they will assess the gravity of the crime committed through an assessment of discernment and then secure necessary documents before filing a case at the Prosecutor's Office.

"Without assessment of discernment, without birth certificate, hindi tatangapin ng fiscal ang case," she said.

Before, those children, aged 15 above but below 18 years old, committing heinous crimes like rape and murder had to undergo the five pillars of justice system, which are law enforcement, prosecution, court, correctional institution, and community, but not anymore with the amended measure that mandates CICLs to stay at centers provided by the local government.

"Para hindi manatili sa kulungan para dili mahalo sa iba at maadress immediately ang kailangan ng bata. Ang nag-mamanage ay trained social worker," she said.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on June 05, 2014.


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