JUVENILE JUSTICE IN THE PHILIPPINES A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE (ABSTRACT) Marianne Murdoch-Verwijs, LLM (Free University, Amsterdam

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BACKGROUND ON JUVENILE CRIME AND THE LEGAL SITUATION IN THE PHILIPPINES IN THE EARLY 1990s The problems of street children and juvenile delinquents are much related social problems. To survive in the street you almost have to become delinquent. Exposed to criminal elements these children are vulnerable to prostitution, drug addiction and pushing and commission of crimes. Most street children have become juvenile delinquents either out of necessity (because they are poor) or through force (because of the syndicates). Young people in the streets are also criminalized and stigmatized for no obvious crime committed. So many times the streets were cleaned up at the start of the tourist season and as a consequence many street children were jailed because of vagrancy laws. A large problem arose from the treatment accorded to the juveniles when they were placed in jails. Most juvenile delinquents were not segregated from the hardened adult criminals in the biggest jails in the Philippines, such as in the Muntinlupa jail outside Manila, so that after their release they went back in the street with more knowledge of crime. This severely hampered the social integration of the youth offenders after they left prison. Chances were high that these young offenders would become chronic delinquents and eventually hardened criminals. Presidential Degree no. 603 otherwise known as the Child and Youth Welfare Code was signed into law on December 10, 1974 and became effective six months after its approval. This code mentions in Chapter 3, articles 189-204, the care and treatment of youthful offenders from the time of apprehension up to the termination of the case. Before Marcos time the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courts provided a unique form of adjudication to youthful offenders and disposal of family cases. It was effective in administering justice, because the methods were not adversarial, but it was oriented to rehabilitation. It viewed the minor as a victim not as an aggressor. It undertook the reformation of the youth with the purpose of integration of him or her into mainstream society. However, on January 17, 1980 the Judiciary Reorganization Act or Batasang Pambansa 129 abolished the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courts. Section 23 of that law authorized the Supreme Court to designate certain branches of the Regional and Municipal Courts to act exclusively on juvenile and domestic relations cases. However, these courts functioned also as courts of general jurisdiction which meant that separate proceedings for youthful offenders were not possible. This in spite of the fact, that the Philippines had signed all the International Treaties concerning the rights of children. In the final years of the Marcos era, crime became hardened in the street. Between 1976 and 1983 murder, robbery, theft, rape and homicide rose from 37% to 58% of all crimes committed.

Children under the age of nine are exempt from criminal responsibility and those between nine and fifteen are liable only if they are able to demonstrate discernment.3 % were preteens.778 in 1989.Delinquent youth doubled from 3. As of November 1992. put emphasis on the fact that children should not be detained in jails and in exceptional cases. More than half of them (or 7. Metro Manila. In Camp - . although the Philippines had signed all the International Treaties concerning children’s rights including: UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which had been ratified in the Philippines on July 1990 and become effective on September 2 1990 Beijing Rules The Riyadh Guidelines The United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty.8% were between 13 and 16 years old. “hardened criminals’. Its ideal capacity was only 100 yet an average of 167 offenders was being housed there. two elsewhere in Luzon. for which the Philippines was a signatory. Because of lack of funds there are still not enough programs for education.1 %) apprehended were between 17 and 21 years old. while another 31. However the international treaties. The conditions in these jails and rehabilitation centres were deplorable. these penitentiaries had a total of 14. This was the situation based on data given by the Department of Social Welfare (1).506 municipal jails all over the country. There are 60 city jails and 1. which is a level of intellectual maturity including the ability to distinguish right from wrong. Under Pilipino law. According to PAHRA (2). Two of them are in Metro Manila. The majority (59. the Molave Youth Home suffered from a 67% rate of congestion. thereby turning jails and prisons into schools of criminality. The worst one was the rehabilitation centre named the Molave Youth Center.717) were at the Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa. which is the most crowded. article 189 of Presidential Decree 1179. if they are detained. Only 2. - The following were some examples of rights infringed by the State of the Philippines: The criminal justice system provides inadequate rehabilitation and mostly punishes criminal behaviour of youth. many of them first offenders were mixed with professional. Young offenders. in the country. vocational training and rehabilitation centres.814 in 1987 to 6. There were 72 provincial jails. There are seven penitentiaries in the Philippines.007 inmates. then only for a very short time. MY CALL TO ACTION Many rights of the youth were not adequately protected by the State. a youthful offender is over nine but under eighteen years of age of the time the offence is committed. one for every province. one in the Visayas and two in Mindanao.

Most NGOs were unaware of the problem as it was generally impossible to enter the jails and prisons to identify the problems (6). All the NGOs for children were concentrating on street children but no attention was given at all to children in conflict with the law. Inadequate health care (often totally absent) and subhuman conditions in the jails and prisons condemned many a young inmate to an early death or to inflict irreparable harm to their physical and mental health (4). lawyers. The resolution of cases in the courts was extremely slow and often unfinished. Some of the young inmates could get this sentence if they had reached the adult age when on trial (5). Another contributing factor to the congestion of jails and detention centres was the lack of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court as it had been abolished which increased the backlog of untried cases. While the State as Parents Patriae was expected to offer and to give special care to its young offenders.Sampaguita only 23. I focused on: a) Provision of legal advice to youth offenders and improve the education of aspiring lawyers. At that time there were no juvenile courts. For example. A danger at that time was also the reintroduction of the death penalty. Children in conflict with the law were serving stiff sentences. . lawyers. probation officers who were specialized in dealing with the youth. awaiting action on their appeal for too long a time with no hope of being attended to soon. psychologists. there was no organization that provided legal attention to young offenders who were generally more vulnerable in an already corrupt judicial system. for every 100 criminal proceedings 36 were resolved and 64 remained pending. it instead negligently allowed a number of young people to enter the gates of jails and prisons with the least amount of legal protection during the litigation process. doing time over and above their sentence. This nonsegregation can be one reason why the numbers of street children and crimes were rising. There were no juvenile courts. As most young detainees had no money to obtain bail this contributed to overcrowding in the prisons. psychologists. - - - - To address the problems of juvenile justice. Police was totally untrained in how to deal with the young ones. Often they were unable to avail themselves of the benefits of pardon or parole due to lack of knowledge about these options.53% were detained in separate cells for minors (3). b) Improved Legal protection of youth offenders AKAP (Adikain Para sa Karapatang Pambata) (Ateneo Human Rights Center) In 1993. probation officers available who were specialized in dealing with youth offenders.

called PAYO (Philippine Action for Youthful Offenders) was established on 9 December 1993 as a national coalition of organizations. - . a group. Having the legal desk at the University raised the awareness of the problems of the children in conflict with the law to the law students who came mostly from the upper and middle classes.As a first step to provide legal attention to young offenders. This desk focused on: The continuing formation of human rights lawyers especially in the field of children in conflict with the law. PAYO was set up to do the following: Lobby for the improvement. When the State has not the authoritative power to change the status quo then. education. government agencies and individuals working for the protection of the rights and welfare of youthful offenders and children in conflict with the law. With this desk legal assistance could be given to young offenders. Therefore it is important to do the networking and the coalition of NGOs as each one of them has the money needed to start and make changes. Human rights research. Among the rich Filipinos there were always people with a golden heart to help their poor fellowmen with continuous fundraising. Some of these rich families were even prepared to give land away for building houses for the underprivileged of their society. maybe the individual or an NGO does. many foreigners gave much voluntary aid to develop the country. Legal assistance to indigent victims of human rights violation. was established in November 1993 at the Human Rights Center of the University of Ateneo. and publications. of which I was a founder. implementation and promulgation of legislations/laws and other related measures which would protect and benefit the youth offenders. Pursue and intensify a continuing public information and education campaign to the public on the rights and situation of the young offenders. Besides Filipinos helping other Filipinos. a legal desk for children. PAYO (Philippine Action for Youth Offenders) It is very hard for developing countries to improve a juvenile justice system. The monitoring of the human rights situation in the Philippines and abroad. During the time President Ramos was in office. AKAP. - This desk was the first one of its kind in the country after Marcos had abolished legal aid to children. when they are already struggling with scarce resources. A programme to train children’s advocates through special courts in Child Law was introduced.

WHO and the Social Welfare Department. . Through the coordination of 30 NGOs together with the help of UNICEF.Republic Act 7610. otherwise known as the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980 by President Ferdinand Marcos. especially guards. Reintroduction of the Juvenile Courts. At the same time this organization would assist those who were children when imprisoned but who reached the age of 18 while in prison. The first action of PAYO was to ask for: Legislation to create and restore the defunct juvenile delinquent court which was abolished by Batas Pambansa Blg.. Segregation of the children from the adults in jails and prisons. The number of streetchildren declined from a high of 1. PAYO MADE A DIFFERENCE NGOs that previously did not work together now started to do so. The Special Protection of Children against Child Abuse. . PAYO made a difference and impact on the general prevalence and types of crime. . The number of delinquents. about the rights of children in conflict with the law. has fallen to around 2000 since the formation of PAYO.000 to around 20-40. Children had to be ensured that when in jail they are informed and educated about their Human Rights as children and as individuals.- Coordinate all efforts and services of non-government organizations. correctional and rehabilitation staff. senators and other politicians more legal aid for youth offenders was provided and PAYO succeeded in getting the Family Courts Act enacted by Congress on 28 July 1997 and signed into law by President Ramos as Republic Act 8369 on 28 October 1997. Exploitation and Discrimination Act 1992. which had risen from 3. government agencies and individuals willing to work for the rights of the youth offenders and work for the improvement of their conditions. On the basis of several research studies by the different NGOs. the Philippines now have a wider range of national executive orders and laws implemented providing for the welfare and protection of youth in conflict with the law: .817 in 1987 to 6778 in 1989 (1). previous child judges.500.Child and Youth Welfare Code (PD 603). - PAYO would primarily focus on assisting children below 18 years old who were in conflict with the law including those already detained or imprisoned. As a result of PAYO. Justice Department. Education of police.000 (7).Dangerous Drug Act of 1972.

in their best interest. overpopulation and the corruption of politicians and the judiciary. When we are dealing with children in conflict with the law. Furthermore the problem of AIDS will increase. an act establishing family courts. PAYO took also care that a police manual was published and that the police force got training sessions as well. If the state is not prepared to help juvenile delinquents surely the crime rate will rise. children in conflict with the law were segregated from adults in the prisons. the individual is blamed for his wrongdoings. abused. there can not be another way of living. For those who have become hardened criminals as young as they are. 39 and 40. but to all articles of this Convention. granting them exclusive original jurisdiction over child and family cases.Republic Act 83369 of 1997.. Furthermore legal aid could be given immediately where it was needed. Those should have the immediate attention of the authorities and NGOs. Without these legal provisions it was impossible to change the situation of youth in conflict with the law especially those on death row. Many who are abandoned. In the Philippines. A constructive social policy for all young people will help in the prevention of juvenile delinquency with emphasis on free education. so the status quo remains. And yet not much is done by the state to correct structural inequality of the classes. So when we are talking about children in conflict with the law we are not only appealing to articles 37. Child and Youth Relations Officers now exist within some police stations with the responsibility to ensure that child suspects are treated appropriately as set out in the special regulations. Those who were on death row were the first ones to be helped. The solution to the problem of controlling juvenile delinquency is not incarceration but good education and vocational training thus emphasizing prevention and rehabilitation. Now the main legal protection for underprivileged youth is implemented in the Philippines. No drastic changes are being made by the state for the betterment of the individual. the reality contradicts what the law is describing. the Government of this country has the obligation to show the world its role as a true protector of human rights. should be rehabilitated as early as possible and integrated back into society. For them miracles of change are only possible when a religious aspect is brought into their live as we can witness from the book about Father Tritz (8) published by the International Labour Organization and from my own field experiences. There should be a move away from institutionalization and children. so that they can play a constructive role. CONCLUSION In developing countries like the Philippines. exposed to drug abuse are in marginal circumstances and are in general at social risk. Once the Act for the protection of children rights was established. neglected. we are dealing with children who had a bad start in life with circumstances and experiences very difficult to accept. because they are learning from the adults in the prison. The state has the obligation according to articles 4 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to protect all children and to translate all rights in the Convention into reality. .

• The adolescent is psychosocially immature compared to adults. however little or none for children in conflict with the law. . we have to be aware that in most countries in this world the local NGOs and governments spend much money for the solution of the problem of street children. We call for the strengthening of the juvenile justice system through the strict implementation of existing laws that prosecute adults who coerce children to engage in criminal behavior and protect and rehabilitate children in conflict with the law (CICL) through restorative means. Referring to "youthful offenders" and "children in conflict with the law. The disease of AIDS is at this moment the most frightening and devastating disease in this world and in this century. The developmental immaturity of juveniles mitigates their criminal culpability. and evaluation of risks and rewards." the bill seeks to lower the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12 years of age. lack of harm reduction measures for drug users and most of all lack of information. lack of access to condoms. provided that criminal responsibility attaches only when the minor "acted with discernment. impulse control. since prisons and jails are a hearth for getting this disease. • Deficiencies in Decision-making Capacity The adolescent brain is still under development. It is of the utmost importance for the world to understand that children in conflict with the law always have to be separated from the adult prisoners. Because of still-developing cognitive abilities and limited life experiences.When we are dealing with the problem of juvenile justice. It is pandemic in developing world particularly in Africa and South-Asia. POSITION PAPER OF THE PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION OF THE PHILIPPINES ON THE AMENDMENT TO THE JUVENILE JUSTICE AND WELFARE ACT The House Bill No. and overall maturity. long-term planning. 6052." was approved in the House of Representatives of the Philippine Congress. decision-making. propensity to engage in risky behavior. titled "An Act Strengthening the Juvenile Justice System in the Philippines. All children have a right to ask for total protection by the State and the world as these rights are described in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. it is their capability to act in ways consistent with that knowledge that is compromised by several factors at this stage: 1. We have to also put the emphasis on the problem of the disease of AIDS. Government and NGOs in general are not aware of the fact that the problem of street children and children in conflict with the law are related social problems. In prisons HIV spreads with frightening efficiency due to sexual abuse." We in the Psychological Association of the Philippines (PAP) are against this amendment and take the stand that the minimum age of criminal responsibility should NOT be lowered from 15 to 12 years old. emotion regulation. We present the following evidence and implications from Psychology research: Scientific research on adolescent development and juvenile delinquency provide evidence that children and adolescents differ significantly from adults in decision-making. do not fully form until young adulthood. making early and middle adolescents (ages 12-16) especially vulnerable to risky and reckless behavior. Although they may be able to discern right from wrong action. identity development. adolescents are less able and less likely than adults to consider the longer-term consequences of their actions. These abilities. which are involved in criminal behavior. Significant changes in brain anatomy and activity are still taking place in the (prefrontal) regions that govern impulse control.

into the hands of the criminal justice system further curtails his or her future prospects. L. and give more weight to rewards. or look up to or are emotionally attached to the criminal proponents. 3. • The Disadvantaged Environment and Profile of the Filipino Child in Conflict with the Law (CICL) The typical CICL is poor. and antisocial behaviors do not reflect “criminal identity” at this stage. and that only a minority persists in criminal behavior as a function of pervasive neurological and environmental risk factors. CICL should experience sanctions in community and family settings whenever possible. for the juvenile. adolescence is still a time of self and identity development. L. especially for first and nonviolent offenses. These clearly place the young person at a disadvantage. • Heightened Vulnerability to Coercive Circumstances As minors. adolescents place relatively less weight on risk. for example. (2005). Alampay. Peers and adults serve as models for behavior that adolescents believe will help them achieve their goals. 39(1). including violent crime. References and recommended resources: Adhikain Para sa Karapatang Pambata (2004). Compared to adults. Risk factors and causal processes in juvenile delinquency: Research and implications for prevention. but most certainly at age 12—to behave in accordance with what they may discern or know to be right versus wrong action. Philippine Journal of Psychology. The aforementioned characteristics of youth indicate that they are less capable than adults —even at age 15. already victimized. They should be excluded from the adult criminal system and given full opportunities to develop into responsible adults who can make meaningful contributions to society.• Adolescents differ from adults in their assessment of and attitude towards risk. lacking in education. making deficiencies in decisionmaking and vulnerability to coercion all the more pronounced. and lives in a criminogenic environment. Studies have shown that encounters with the adult justice system results in greater subsequent crime. and pushes them further towards a negative life trajectory. Research on the situation of children in conflict with the law in selected Metro Manila cities. Although transitory. These may result in youth giving more importance to. 2. Moreover. these developmental limitations are not under the volitional control of the young person. Research indicates that most youth abandon antisocial behavior at the time that they exit adolescence. To place such a young person. They also have different goals and values than adults. (2006). Because of the desire for approval and belonging at this stage. where the child will be labeled a criminal and where he or she is exposed to criminal models. exposure to the criminal justice system. peer approval than safe behavior. A rights-based framework for the prevention of juvenile delinquency in Philippine communities. Quezon City: Save the Children (UK)-Philippines.P. adolescents’ choices reflect what they believe will merit the approval of their peers. We urge the government and relevant stakeholders to implement restorative justice and appropriate interventions for CICL. The PAP reiterates its position against the lowering of the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12 years old. a victim of parental neglect and/or abuse. The fact that juvenile crimes tend to take place in groups or gangs points to the significant role of peer influence and pressure.P. Youth are powerless in such circumstances because they fear retribution. do not have or are not aware of alternative actions. young people lack the freedom that adults have to assert their own decisions and extricate themselves from criminogenic settings. will more likely establish the “criminal identity” of the young person. Alampay. . In fact. There is local evidence that children are often used and abused by adults to engage in criminal acts. • Adolescents are more susceptible to peer influence than are adults.195-228.

anger and internalized stigma (Hatzenbuehler.php Steinberg. Keeping adolescents out of prison. untrustworthy and even dangerous or predatory. (2008). This anti-LGBT prejudice and discrimination tend to be based on a rhetoric of moral condemnation and are fueled by ignorance or unfounded beliefs associating these gender expressions and sexual orientations with psychopathology or maladjustment. (2003). Street Children and the Juvenile Justice System. This stigma is manifested in actions such as: bullying. These include: the American Psychiatric Association in 1973. denying transgender Filipinos entry into commercial establishments. alienation. gender identity and expression. the American Psychological Association in 1975. LGBT Filipinos often confront social pressures to hide. prejudice. Less guilty by reason of adolescence: Developmental immaturity. & Scott. Painted Gray Faces Behind Bars and in the Streets. L. The Future of Children. MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice: http://www. (2003). 2. Moreover. 1-7. Policy Brief. Gay and Bisexual Concerns and Transgender Issues in Psychology. the Australian Psychological Society.. media portrayal of LGBTs as frivolous. bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Filipinos continue to experience stigma. a and b). American Psychologist. In order to eliminate stigma. the PAP resolves to support efforts to: • oppose all public and private discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation. and the International Network on Lesbian. 1009-1018. Quezon City: Author Statement of the Psychological Association of the Philippines on Non-Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation. the PAP Code of Ethics (2010) is clear in its stance against discrimination. discrimination and violence against LGBT. 18 No. E. decades of scientific research have led mental health professional organizations worldwide to conclude that lesbian. and the juvenile death penalty. gay. teasing and harassment of LGBT children and adolescents in families. Filipino psychologists are called upon to recognize the unique worth and inherent dignity of all human beings. pigeonholing LGBT Filipinos into particularly limited roles and occupations. University of the Philippines Center for Integrative and Development Studies-Program on Psychosocial Trauma and Human Rights and Consortium for Street Children.Manila: United Nations Children’s Fund. Steinberg. This means that Filipino psychologists should not discriminate against or demean persons based on actual or perceived differences in characteristics including gender identity and sexual orientation (Ethical Standard III-A and C. R. . Although many LGBTs learn to cope with this social stigma. L. 58(12). Vol. 2003). Psychological Society of South Africa. sadness. these experiences can cause serious psychological distress. 2009. schools and communities. The Psychological Association of the Philippines (PAP) aligns itself with the global initiatives to remove the stigma of mental illness that has long been associated with diverse sexualities and to promote the wellbeing of LGBT people. V-B.adjj.8). prejudice and discrimination in Philippine society. gay and bisexual orientations are normal variants of human sexuality. Meyer. including immediate consequences such as fear. or curtailing their rights to participate in the political sphere. diminished responsibility. suppress or even attempt to change their identities and expressions as conditions for their social acceptance and enjoyment of rights. British Psychological Society. among others..org/content/index. However. Gender Identity and Expression Lesbian. & Haskins. the Colombian Society of Psychology. and to respect the diversity among persons and peoples (Principle I.

• eliminate all forms of prejudice and discrimination against LGBTs in teaching.pap.html http://newsinfo. Yet the country’s justice and prison system – the same system to which these youth offenders are committed – is fit only for the adult.ph/?ctr=page&action=resources The Problem of Youth Offenders: When Children Commit Adult Crimes Statistics show that most of the Philippines’ young offenders – “children in conflict with the law” – come from poor families. Thus.com/archive1/036yo.000 children in the Philippines have been arrested and detained since 1995. The proposal to adopt a child-friendly justice.net/tag/juvenile-justice-law http://www. .    Roughly 28 children get arrested every day. research.bulatlat. psychological interventions. BY YNA SORIANO Bulatlat.unicef.html Jail is no place for a child. • disseminate and apply accurate and evidence-based information about sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to design interventions that foster mental health and wellbeing of LGBT Filipinos. 8 out of 10 children in conflict with the law will commit only one offense in their lifetime. or more than one child for every hour. most of the crimes they reportedly commit are crimes against property.inquirer. and support the passage of legislation at the local and national levels that protect the rights and promote the welfare of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities and expressions.” is a distant dream.• repeal discriminatory laws and policies. They are called "first-time offenders. assessment and other psychological programs.  Over 50.com http://www. http://www. hardened criminals." A "first-time offender" who is kept out of adult jails is 8 times more likely to change and become productive © UNICEF Philippines/2003/Dela Cruz Keep children out of adult jails.org. called “restorative juvenile justice.org/philippines/children/jj_1. • encourage psychological research that addresses the needs and concerns of LGBT Filipinos and their families and communities.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed its concern about the Philippine government administers juvenile justice and the incompatibility of the existing justice system with the principles and provisions of the Convention and other international standards relating to juvenile justice. Help us urge our lawmakers to pass a Comprehensive Juvenile Justice System. More than half of the crimes for which minors are charged are not serious offenses.756 children have been in conflict with the law. Children in the Philippines can be arrested and detained like adults from the age of nine years old. 52. Keep children out of adult jails. These include petty theft. Many children experience detention in sub-standard conditions for long periods of time before their cases are finally resolved.than a detained juvenile offender. an award-winning documentary on the lives of children in a jail. sniffing of glue or solvents. vagrancy and violation of curfew hours. Many of these cases involved the detention of minors. Many cases involving children are not reviewed immediately. often in the same cells as adult offenders. Most are eventually dismissed by the courts due to out of court settlements or the failure of witnesses to appear during the trial. The Council for the Welfare of Children reported that from 1995 to 2000. Urge our lawmakers to make the Juvenile Justice Law work. Download fact sheet on Children in Conflict with the Law. . Learn more about "Bunso" (The Youngest). The Committee recommended a comprehensive reform of the system of administration of juvenile justice in the Philippines.000 children have been provided legal assistance by the Public Attorney's Office. Since 2003. Send an e-mail to the Juvenile Justice NetworkPhilippines. over 26.