Philippine Juvenile Justice Welfare Bill (RA 9344) is not being implemented

By Robert Garcia, Legal officer / researcher

Problems PREDA encountered in the implementation of RA 9344:

This law has provisions to protect the rights of the Child in Conflict with the Law (CICL) Basically, Chapter 1 (Initial Contact with the Child). Section 21- Procedure for Taking the Child into Custody of RA 9344 is the most systematically-breached aspect of the law protecting minors. The authorities violate minors’ rights in their failure to respect and implement the legal, civil and human rights of the minor under Philippine law and the International convention of the rights of the child. This is a daily occurrence.

The authorities do not implement the law and systematically or normally do the following: THEY SHOULD

a) Explain to the child the offense committed;
b) Inform the minor the reason for his/her arrest;
c) Identify the arresting officer to the minor;
d) Refrain from slapping, beating, punishing or using vulgar words;
e) Avoid displaying or using any firearm, weapon, handcuffs;
f) Refrain from subjecting the minor to greater restraint than necessary
g) Never use violence, physical abuse or threats, fear or intimidation to control or get a confession.
h) Determine the age of the child
i) Inform the parents of the CICL or DSWD of the arrest
j) Get Medical and mental examination of the CICL
k) Use a separate detention cell away from adult prisoners
l) Make proper recording of the initial investigation; have sufficient evidence
m) Ensure that any statements signed by the child during investigation shall be witnessed by the parents or guardians or the DSWD or his counsel.

As for PREDA experience, the following have been observed by the Preda project officers to be the problems in the implementation of RA 9344

* Law enforcers continue to detain minors [Section 5 (c) and (d) of RA 9344]. Even under 15 and over 15 they hold them without filing charges longer that the law allows.

a.) Barangay officials and Police officers continue to arrest minors and temporarily detain them in their barangay halls or police stations for disciplinary action, long periods of illegal detention awaiting complainants to file their complaints and then bringing them to the police station for the formal filing of complaints, long detention in the Police station without charges being filed. The barangay tanods or police are ignorant of the law or are still in the culture of "areglo system", i.e. extortion, demanding payments to allow the minor to be released. Indulging in a form of "kidnapping for ransom".

b.) Police authorities also arrest minors as if they are dealing with adults. The minors rights are violated by the arresting officers when:

They arrest them for petty offenses like so-called gambling, trespassing ,rugby sniffing, vagrancy Although these are not even violations under the Penal code RPC, the most compelling reason as to why the law enforcers arrest them is just because of the "quota system", their chief of police demands so many arrests a week. The police want to enhance their success record. The police chief wants success and achievements to report to headquarters and show crimes solved. Likewise they only file many charges to pad their achievement report and get a promotion.

The arresting officer also makes money and gets a pay off from family of the detained minor to withdraw the charge or loose the evidence, or not appear in court to testify and allow the charge to be dismissed. All the while the minor is in detention (at times with adults in the police station) unable to pay bail.

Failure to transfer the minor to an NGO or government rehabilitation center while awaiting trial, they are arrested and detained without informing the Social Services, this the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) or their parents within eight(8 )hours [Section 21(i) Procedure for Taking the Child into Custody].

* they are held in the cell even without the formal complaint filed for the simple reason that the police are still waiting for the complainant to show up.
* they are left without food and water for long periods.
*made to clean toilets or wash clothes of other prisoners for food. Without their family to help they go hungry. Abandoned street kids go hungry.
* They are judged guilty by the police and are beaten, slapped, and kicked and cursed with bad words, to make them confess .The police can then justify the arrest and have "evidence" to charge them. Or get a bigger pay off from the minor’s family.
* Even if the DSWD is informed of the minors’ detention, it will take days before the minors are released to their parents or institutions. This is because of the lack of social workers resulting to delays in the processing of their social case study reports which are very vital in hearing motions for Release On Recognizance.
* Section 16. Appointment of Local Social Welfare and Development Officer. This is not very well coordinated as social workers put CICL in the least of their priorities.
* Non-observance of resolving the minority in favor of the CICL despite the absence of their birth certificates [Section 7. Determination of Age]
* No temporary holding cells for minors being charged. Mixed with adults. Suffer physical, sexual abuse.
* No recovery center in most cities and municipalities. This has been the problem prior to RA 9344.This is still a problem nowadays. Therefore, Section of the law that requires this is not implemented.
* Overcrowded detention centers like Manila Youth Reception center (MYRC) centers, often no rehabilitation nor therapeutic programs. Bad food, bad hygienic conditions, Physical and sexual abuse by bigger youth detainees and guards, "trustees", cell "Mayors" No educational, medical, dental services .NO outdoor exercise, recreation, sports, family meetings, group activities. Internal discipline is an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, and denial of food. No beds, cushions, bad lighting, ventilation, dungeon like conditions.
* Long detention due to delays in the legal proceedings of the CICL result to their over-servicing of their imposable penalty particularly that of the victimless crimes [Section 23 (b)]. Example: A minor is held without conviction for 8 months
(Four months mixed with adult criminals 2008) only charged with stealing 360 pesos (5 Euro)
* Section 18. Development of a Comprehensive Juvenile Intervention Program is not being taken seriously by local cities and municipalities. It says there that LGUs shall set aside an amount necessary to implement their respective juvenile
intervention programs in their annual budget. No budget allocated, therefore, no implementation can be made.
* Section 19. Community-based Programs on Juvenile Justice and Welfare. Actually, there is no implementation of this section of the law. CICL released to their parents do not participate in any community-based programs as there are no programs drawn for them by the LGU. What is actually happening is that the CICL only shows up quarterly to the office of the social worker for monitoring.
*In over-all effect, the situation of arrested minors has not changed The courts are releasing more minors to the custody NGO centers, a few Municipal social workers refer minors to the NGO centers.

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