The term ‘children in conflict with the law’ as defined by UNICEF refers to anyone under 18 who encounters the justice system because of being suspected or accused of committing an offence. Most children in conflict with the law have committed petty crimes or such minor offences as vagrancy, truancy, begging or alcohol use. Some of these are known as ‘status offences’ and are not considered criminal when committed by adults.
In 2006, the Philippines adopted the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act (RA 9344) – An Act Establishing a comprehensive Juvenile Justice and Welfare System, creating the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council under the Department of Justice. This Act cover the different stages involving children at risk and children in conflict with the law from prevention to rehabilitation and reintegration (Sec.1).
In 2012 the RA 10630 was approved to strengthens the Juvenile Justice System in the Philippines. Juvenile Justice Welfare Council was then created under the Department of Social Welfare & Development, amending the previous Juvenile Justice Act to RA 9344 the minimum age of criminal liability at 15 years old. Minors between 15 to 18 years old who commits crime may be detained in youth centers and be put through rehabilitation programs. Those under 15 years old are exempted from criminal liability and undergo intervention.
Prior to this law, children were locked up in jails together with adults even for petty offenses, were vulnerable to abuse during arrest and detention. According to Department of Social Welfare and Development average of 10,515 children were arrested every year. Following the Amendments, Bahay Pag-asa was established providing temporary shelter to for children in conflict with the law who are above fifteen (15) but below eighteen (18) years of age who are awaiting court disposition of their cases or transfer to other agencies or jurisdiction. This child caring institution is funded and managed by the Local Government Units and licensed and/or accredited nongovernment organizations (NGOs). Bahay Pag-asa becomes intensive juvenile intervention and support center. This will cater to children in conflict with the law. A multi-disciplinary team composed of a social worker, a psychologist/mental health professional, a medical doctor, an educational/guidance counselor and a Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC) member shall operate the ‘Bahay Pag-asa’. The team will work on the individualized intervention plan with the child and the child’s family. (DSWD 2017)
The Philippine government has long undermined the severity of juvenile delinquency problem in society. This neglect has contributed to the up surge of juvenile-related crimes that has caused enormous questions on the socio-political, economic as well as security programs of the government. Twenty-five years ago, the researcher have made a related research paper about Juvenile Delinquency, mainly because during those times and based on research poverty and lack of education is the main cause of Juvenile Delinquency. Then and now the number of crimes committed by minors has continuously increased. To date increasing number of crimes committed by minors has brought to numerous number of studies and propositions, there are calls for lowering the age of criminal responsibility – from 15 years to 9 years old, because authorities are looking at the possibility of children being used by drug syndicates and being recruited by notorious groups to commit crimes because they cannot be prosecuted.
In Lipa City there is an increasing number of incident reports of crimes involving minors. There must be programs or policies to be made to minimize this crime.
Social Media has shown videos of violence committed by them. In recent times, Committee Hearings and other Forum are made by local officials are focus on the increasing victims of notorious gang called “Watot Gang” whom members are all minors aging from 12-18 years of age.
Since the Social Welfare Village was still under construction, the temporary shelter for Children in Conflict with the Law (CICL) was housed in the Office of the City Social Welfare and Development. There are fourteen minors being housed in the said shelter excluding those whose are brought to other shelter in Tanay, Rizal and Batangas Province.
The researcher found the essential need to conduct this study. There is undeniably growing problem of Juvenile Delinquency and CICL in Lipa City. Various preventive measures and ordinances was created to address the issue of growing numbers of minor offenders in Lipa City.
Furthermore, the researcher was prompted to assess policies and program of the Local DSWD and Local Government in implementing RA 9344, and the provision and amendments enclosed in the said Republic Act.