House Deputy Speaker Pia S. Cayetano is open to amending the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, on the condition that alternative methods of intervention, other than criminal penalty, would be considered in holding child offenders accountable.
Cayetano made the statement during an event at the Batangas State University – Lipa Campus on Thursday, where she was asked about her stand on proposals to lower the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility (MACR) in the country, which is currently 15 years old. A staunch advocate of the Filipino family and children’s welfare, the congresswoman responded by saying she supports calls to amend the 2006 measure, stressing that the gaps in the existing law has become a “fundamental problem” that needs to be addressed.
“I have a fundamental problem with the law. Kaya open ako sa amendment. The problem with things now is that a lot of criminal syndicates are taking advantage of young children. Ang problema doon sa current na batas natin, may nakalagay doon na ‘pag nalaman na iyong batang iyon is under 15 years old, kailangan ibalik siya kaagad sa parents,” Cayetano cited.
The Taguig representative said a comprehensive policy should be implemented by the government to prevent criminal syndicates from taking advantage of such gaps in the law and exploiting young children to mobilize their criminal activities. Cayetano said more should be done to protect the youth from a life of crime, other than just lowering the MACR to nine years old or 12 years old.
She said the focus should be on ensuring that every child receives the proper support and guidance s/he can get from a “loving family.” “It’s not just a matter of 12 years old, 15 years old. It’s a matter of what kind of support every child has, such that they can grow up knowing what is right and what is wrong. If you do wrong, may kaparusahan, but it doesn’t have to be a criminal penalty,” she noted.
The congresswoman, who was the principal author and sponsor of the Foster Care Act of 2012 (Republic Act 10165), said key factors affecting a child’s growth, including family life and home environment, should first be considered before determining which interventions are most effective in dealing with children in conflict with the law.
“In the first place, iyong mga batang nagagamit ng mga sindikato, my question is, ano kaya ang family life nila? May parents ba siya na nagmamahal sa kanya, na nagtuturo sa kanya ng right or wrong? There’s a big chance na may problem doon sa family. We have to understand these fundamental issues that affect children so we can decide what is the best kind of intervention for them. That is, to me, the bigger problem,” Cayetano concluded.#
Photo: Deputy Speaker Pia Cayetano with officials, faculty and students of Batangas State university (Lipa City campus)