THE United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in a statement on Sunday called on Congress to support the full implementation of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, amid the Senate’s planned debate Monday to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility.
“Do not lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility. Congress must support the full implementation of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act,” UNICEF said in a statement.
This comes ahead of scheduled plenary debates on Senate Bill No. 2198, which proposes to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 12 years old from the current 15 years old.
The Senate Bill is currently pending second reading and is among the priorities of the chamber during the three-week resumption.
The House of Representatives, for its part, approved on final reading its counterpart measure, House Bill No. 8858, last January.
The 17th Congress is set to resume sessions on Monday after a three-month break during the election campaign. It is set to officially close on June 7.
The UNICEF cited, among other laws, RA No. 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, as being consistent with the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
It also argued that children in conflict with the law must be rehabilitated and reintegrated to society, instead of subjecting them to penalties and detention.
“The law makes it clear — without a doubt — that there is a need for a separate juvenile justice system where detention is the last resort,” UNICEF also said.
“The proper implementation of the (the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act) has led to many success stories proving that children in conflict with the law can be rehabilitated without…imprisonment or detention.” — Charmaine A. Tadalan