The Senate has approved on third and final reading a bill amending the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, so that offenders 15 years old and younger would remain exempted from criminal liability but would be made to face the civil consequences of their crimes.
Senate Bill No. 3324, under Committee Report No. 463 cosponsored by Sen. Francis Pangilinan, also requires the release of young offenders to the custody of their parents, but they will be placed under a community-based “intervention program” supervised by the local social welfare and development officer.
The Senate also passed on third and final reading this week a bill imposing stiffer penalties on people driving under the influence of either drugs or alcohol and another bill prescribing penalties for illegally tapping into cable television and Internet facilities.
“Children who are 15 years of age or under [at the time of commission of the crime will] not be exempt from civil liabilities. Liability of parents for quasi delicts and felonies committed by their minor children is direct and primary and not subsidiary,” said lawyer Cecile Palines, a member of Pangilinan’s staff.
Palines said that should the amendment pass, the parents or guardians exercising parental authority over teenage offenders would be responsible for the restitution, reparation and indemnification for consequential damages.
“If the child committed theft, he or she is obliged to return the thing he or she has stolen. If it is not possible to return what he or she has stolen, the parents should pay the amount equivalent to what the child has stolen,” Palines said.
Pangilinan said Republic Act No. 9344, or the juvenile justice law, aims to protect the welfare of children in conflict with the law, majority of whom are guilty of minor crimes such as petty theft, vagrancy and sniffing glue.
“Prior to the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, children in conflict with the law were thrown into the same prison cells as hardened criminals. Studies show that most of them were first-time offenders, while eight percent committed crimes against property,” Pangilinan said.
“These children are then doomed to a life of crime, rendering them victims of a judicial system that inadvertently breeds criminals,” he added.
Senate Bill No. 3365, or the proposed Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving Act of 2012 sponsored by Sen. Gregorio Honasan, has also passed final reading in the Senate.