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CHILDREN IN CRIME: CRACKS IN THE

COUNTRY'S JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM


1. MANILA, Philippines How do you make criminals out of children? Put them in areas where they wont be able to meet their basic needs for food, water, shelter, health care, education and sanitation. Strip them of their rights to develop and maintain a life of dignity so that theyll grow up uneducated and unemployed. Mire them in places where there is no solution to despair and destitution. 2. In the Philippines, where the plight of majority of the poor remains largely unaddressed, many places become breeding grounds for youth offenders. While many of these children were able to rise from the rut---proving that poverty isnt a justifiable excuse for committing crime--thousands of other juveniles have failed to get out of the trap and are forced to break the law primarily to survive. 3. At the Center for Restorative Activities Development and Learning Experiences (CRADLE) in Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan, Taguig City, most of the 74 male children aged 15 and above who are accused of crimes come from poor families, mostly from depressed areas in Paranaque, Pasig, Muntinlupa, Valenzuela, San Juan, and Malabon. The place is run by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology. 4. Pinakamaraming kaso ng mga bata sa amin ay crime against property tulad ng theft at robbery. Galing sila sa pamilyang mahihiraphindi sila nakapag -aral. Kailangan nilang tumulong sa pamilya, kailangang kumita ng pera," says Norma Marcelino, social welfare officer of CRADLE where children in conflict with the law (CICL) are being housed while their cases are being heard in family courts. 5. [Most of the cases involving CICLs in CRADLE consist of crimes against property such as theft and robberyMost of them come from poor families, they couldnt attend schoolThey need to help their families, they need to earn money.] 6. At the DSWDs Marillac Hills in Muntinlupa City also known as the National Training School for Girls, 28 female CICLs also aged 15 and above are housed while their criminal cases are being heard in the courts. Here, stories of poor girls from far-flung provinces victimized by internal trafficking are not uncommon. 7. Many of them who were forced to work as house help or caregivers in the metropolis were also charged with theft or robbery. 8. We house several of them here. I knew of one 16-year-old girl from a poor farming community in Davao del Sur who was forced to work as a maid

somewhere in Rizal province. Her employer charged her with qualified theft, says Eva Villegas, a veteran social worker at Marillac. 9. Villegas says the girl received a phone call from a man whom she said sounded like her employer, and told her to bring money and jewelry to a certain place. 10. The girl even went back to the house of her employer not knowing that it was not her boss but a different person who talked to her on the phone, says Villegas. CICLs in Tondo In District I-Tondo consisting of 163 barangays, social worker Ma. Raquel Tubale of the Manila Department of Social Welfare (MDSW) doesnt hide the fact that in her area, particularly in Parola or Barangay 20 where she is assigned, the rate of crimes involving children mostly from large but poor families are among the highest in the districts of Manila. She says that CICLs in District I Tondo, some as young as nine years old, are often engaged in property-related crimes such as theft and robbery, a matter attributed to deprivation and poverty. According to Tubale, many of these CICLs are repeat offenders who start with committing petty crimes and then graduate on to being hardened criminals. Pickpocket lang dati, hanggang sa mang -snatch ng gamit, ma involve sa robbery-hold-up tapos sumama sa mga grupo ng akyatbahay gang [They start as pickpockets, then as snatchers and robbers until they become members of a group of house burglars], says Tubale. From February to August 2011,the MDSW in District I in Tondo recorded a total of 366 CICLs in the area or about 52 CICLs monthly, many of them engaged in property-related crimes and are repeat if not chronic offenders. Crimes involving CILCs from depressed communities in District I are particularly rampant in Parola, according to Councilor Arnel Bong Parce, head of Barangay 20s Committee on Peace and Order. He says the barangays daily crime blotter is always filled with records of repeat youth offenders, mostly members of akyat-bahay gangs. Yung makapal naming blotter book kung minsan after two months lang ubos na ang pahina at dapat nang palitan dahil napuno na ng records ng CICLs [Sometimes we need to replace our thick blotter book with a new one after only two months because the previous one had already been filled with cases of CICLs], Parce says. Tragically, drugs is a key driver of crime, and may account, according to those who have observed the juvenile justice system since the 60s, for the anecdotal evidence of more and more of the younger offenders being implicated in not just petty crimes like theft, but occasionally even heinous ones like rape and murder. Parce observes that most of the CICLs in his barangay first get high on drugs before they carry out the crime. Marami dito tumitira muna ng solvent o acetonebago gumawa ng masam a.
National data on CICLs

Current statistics and CICL profiles from DSWD rehabilitation centers and from Tondo are reflective of earlier government national data on youth offenders -- an indication that the problem has persisted through the years.

CHILDREN IN CRIME: CRACKS IN THE COUNTRY'S JUVENILE


JUSTICE SYSTEM

CHILDREN IN CRIME: CRACKS IN THE COUNTRY'S JUVENILE


JUSTICE SYSTEM
1. 2. (CWC) shows that more than 52,000 children from 1995 to 2000 were reported to be in conflict with the law. Separate data from the DSWD show that from 2001 to 2010, there were close to 64,000 CICLs served by the government. The presence of CICLs was highest in Region VI or Western Visayas, the National Capital Region, and Region XI or the Davao Region throughout the period. Another 2010 report from the CWC on the Situationer on Filipino Children presents the profile of CICLs: usually male between the ages of 14 and 17; has low educational attainment; belongs to large, low-earning families of six members; charged with property-related crimes; use drugs; and alcohol; and has stopped schooling. Holistic, restorative justice approach Government efforts at resolving problems of CICLs resulted in the enactment of Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006. Until the passage of R.A. 9344, the rules and procedures applicable to CICLs were no different from those being used for adult offenders, especially during the Marcos administration when the Judiciary Reorganization Act abolished in 1980 the juvenile and domestic relations courts. This resulted in the criminalization of children as general courts subjected minors to the same adversarial proceedings faced by adult suspects.

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7. R.A. 9344 envisioned a holistic and restorative justice approach to addressing the plight of CICLs. Instead of punishing juvenile offenders and treating them as criminals, the approach aims at providing help to CICLs to prevent them from committing future offenses. Under this method, efforts at rehabilitating CICLs require the victim and the community to take an active role in the process. Furthermore, the law prohibits the detention of children in jails. It likewise raises the age of criminal responsibility from nine under Presidential Decree 603 to a minimum of 15 years old. RA 9344 also exempts CICLs aged 15 and above from criminal liability unless the prosecution proves that they acted with discernment or the capacity to determine what is right and wrong. Instead of going to trial, the law provides for the referral of childrens cases to communitybased rehabilitation programs as well as juvenile delinquency prevention programs, rehabilitation, reintegration, and aftercare services. A year after RA 9344s implementation, data from the DSWD show that from a record of 8,661 CICLs served by the agency in 2006, the number decreased to a yearly average of about 2,500 from 2007 to 2009. Rosalie Dagulo, chief of the DSWDs Alternative Care and Placement Program Division, explains that the decreasing number of CICLs served by the agency did not mean that the number of youth offenders also went down. She says that it only meant that the CICLs were no longer subjected to pun itive punishment but were reintegrated with their parents after undergoing rehabilitation process under the supervision of community-based shelter centers.