JUVENILE JUSTICE IN THE PHILIPPINES -
A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE (ABSTRACT)
Marianne Murdoch-Verwijs, LLM (Free University, Amsterdam)
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. Delinquent youth doubled from 3,814 in 1987 to 6,778 in 1989. The majority (59.1 %) apprehended were between 17 and 21 years old, while another 31.8% were between 13 and 16 years old. Only 2.3 % were preteens. This was the situation based on data given by the Department of Social Welfare (1).
Under Pilipino law, article 189 of Presidential Decree 1179, a youthful offender is over nine but under eighteen years of age of the time the offence is 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, which is a level of intellectual maturity including the ability to distinguish right from wrong.
There are seven penitentiaries in the Philippines. Two of them are in Metro Manila, two elsewhere in Luzon, one in the Visayas and two in Mindanao. As of November 1992, these penitentiaries had a total of 14,007...
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