Juvenile Delinquency in the Philippines

“Am I a juvenile delinquent? I am a teenager. I am young –young at heart and in mind. In this position, I am carefree. I enjoy doing nothing but to drink the win of pleasure…Honorable judge, friends, and teachers… is this the girl whom you commented a juvenile delinquent? ” (Anonymous) Perhaps all of us have heard this famous declamation piece, but have we ever looked closer into the depths of the term, “juvenile delinquency?

Will juvenile delinquency be only remembered through a declamation or will juvenile delinquency be given justice through the House Bill 6052, or the amended Juvenile Justice Welfare Act. The bill claims the lowering of the criminal liability of youth to 12 years old. Many have contested the bill claiming several arguments: it is against the welfare of youth, that the maturity of a child begins at 18 and lastly, and lastly, the bill does not properly address the growing number of youth crimes. These people have not been properly informed regarding the bill.

It is necessary and rightfully in time to lower the criminal liability of youth offenders in the Philippines to the age of 12. People anti-HB 6052 were misled I their claim that the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act is against the welfare of youth offenders. Criminal liability does not necessarily mean, imprisoning youth offenders. Juvenile delinquents, in accordance with the house bill, are subject to the custody of DSWD or any licensed both government and non-government agencies. A youth offender, once proven guilty, undergoes an extensive rehabilitation program.

The bill mandates that Children in conflict with the law or CICLs are not to be treated like an adult crime offender (Tubianosa, 2012). Therefore, lowering the criminal liability of the youth in the Philippines does not prohibit their exercise of rights but rather it asserts it. As the name of the house bill connotes, “Juvenile Justice Welfare Act”, it strengthens the juvenile justice systems, catering to the needs of the youth offenders. Children who are at least twelve years old or below are exempted form sentence.

Youth who are guilty of committing crimes at the age of 15 but below 18, are taken to the custody of DSWD. Youth offenders aged 12 and above are given what could be considered as a “special treatment”. The programs they would be undergoing are not created to make them feel guilty or are not intended to hurt themselves. The programs set by local social welfare and development centers ought to help youth offenders by shaping their moralities and teaching them worthwhile activities that would spare them from criminalities.

Moreover, a statement made by the Juvenile Justice Welfare Council or JJWC secretariat executive director, Tricia Clare Oco said that, “This landmark child protection law, the first of its kind in Asia, envisions a child-sensitive justice and welfare system and mandates the local government units (LGUs) and national government agencies (NGAs) to allocate resources for the creation of programs and services that will protect Filipino children and prevent them from being forced, threatened and pushed to violate our criminal laws (2012).

It is necessary that we are able to reach to youth offenders, particularly those at the age 12, just like what is mandated by house bill 6052. Many people question, why the age of 12 is the basis of considering a child liable for a crime. The age of 18, as believed by many, is the age of maturity and not the age of twelve. It is known that puberty occurs at the age of 9-12 years old. At this age, children are most vulnerable to influences also, it is during these years that children find for social belongingness.

In a collaborative journal of Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and the Brookings Institution, middle childhood and early adolescent years were said to be the time wherein children change their view of themselves, when they question and explore the available possibilities for them (1999). Moreover, the Royal college of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, claimed that “psychological problems may arise resulting in adolescent behavior” (Weston, 2012).

Children at the age of puberty are more likely to experience behavioral problems, resulting in increase in psychological dilemmas and thus, affecting the vulnerability to commit crimes. Pubertal development creates different psychological dilemmas (Mendle et al. 2007), thus youth are not likely to do well. The lowering of criminal liability to 12, addresses both the problems in the rising of the crimes committed by the youth as well as the psychological and behavioral problems experienced during puberty.

During adolescences, a child tends to do hideous acts out of frustration. Most of the youth crime offenders are subject to limited real life opportunities, creating a conflict with what are idealized. Rehabilitation and development programs by social welfare units help adolescents at the age bracket of 9-12. These researches and strengthens the notion that it is more critical to supervise teenagers rather than sticking and supporting the claim that 18 is the age of maturity.

Developing youths are more likely to do to crimes than those who are psychologically and emotionally stable. Now that we have known the specifications on why developing youth observe awful behavior, it is necessary to take a close look on the records and statistics in the growing number of youth committed crimes. World Youth report in 2003 claimed that statistics showed that there has been a drastic increase in youth crimes, in all parts of the world during the 1990’s. ( United Nations, 2003) In 2009, Philippine National Police reported that juvenile crimes increased by 18%.

There was a huge increase on drug cases among the youth and a slight increase in rape cases committed by under aged individuals. Theft and robbery has been the most prevalent crime committed by the youth. Paranaque representative, Roilo Gomez, one of those pushing for the implementation of House Bill 6052, asserted the need to implement the bill by citing statistics showing the increase in the number of youth offenders. Roilo (2012),argued that the lowering of the criminal liability of youth in the Philippines provides justice to the victims of youth offenders.

Former DILG Secretary, Jesse Robredo, asked the PNP to take deliberate actions on crimes committed by the youth; “Please take immediate action to put a stop to these nefarious acts and protect our motorists, commuters and passers-by from being victimatized by criminal groups” (Robredo, 2011). Perhaps even you, readers, have personal experiences or at least seen or heard of crimes being committed by the youth. There is no need to provide specific data because youth crimes are obvious and rampant in the present society.

The implementation of house bill 6052, is ought to lessen youth committed crimes. The problems on Juvenile delinquency are becoming more complicated and crimes are not addressed properly due to the lack of systematic action. Developing countries, like the Philippines, have done little to address problems on juvenile delinquencies (United Nations, 2003). In accordance with the United Nations Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency (The Riyahd Guidelines) , countries who are signatories of the treaty have lowered the criminal liabilities of youth.

Most States set the ages 11 or 12 to be the basis of criminal liabilities among the youth. Since the Philippines is one of the signatories, it is necessary to adapt the Riyadh Guidelines, thus lowering the age for criminal liability among the youth. To conclude, most of the people have been misled on judging the passing of the house bill 6052, or the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act, lowering the age of criminal liability in the Philippines to 12 years old. Lowered age for criminal liabilities promotes the rights and welfare of the youth and not a way to induce further harm or abuse.

Researches and studies sown that it is crucial to supervise and guide the adolescences in their development, thus controlling their psychological behavior. Lastly, house bill 6052, addresses the problem in the growing number of crimes committed by the youth in accordance to the guidelines provided by United Nations to prevent juvenile crimes. I hope nex ttime a youth delivers a declamation speech, he would no longer talk on juvenile delinquency but rather, speak of Whitney Houston’s song: “I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way…”