Lowering age of accountability
President Rodrigo Duterte may have had a point when he complained about Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, authored by Sen. Francis Pangilinan, which he blamed for the generations of youth offenders that came after its passage.
President Duterte was right when he said the law, copied from other countries specifically in the US states of Washington and New York, might have been rushed by Pangilinan without taking into account substantial corrective measures aimed at rehabilitating these youth offenders.
Among them is the institution of correctional facilities or so-called reform schools where children in conflict with the law, as they were called, are lectured and disciplined in order to instill in them a sense of accountability and responsibility.
We doubt if there is no provision in the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act that provides or requires local governments to set up these correctional facilities though there are institutions that have been set up to perform these functions, like the Boys Town.
These centers are different from somewhat similar facilities like Cebu City’s Operation Second Chance where the youth offenders are actually jailed and supervised by blue guards who may or may not carry firearms and weapons.
But still, the President cannot question the intent or purpose behind the law — to give these youth offenders a second chance to reform and to be spared from the harsh reality of life behind bars.
There is the ongoing debate in Congress about lowering the age of accountability to somewhere between 10 to 12 years old with those above being treated like adult offenders and jailed with them.
Whether Congress under the Duterte administration would push the limits and include the lowered age of youth offenders under the death penalty bill is still up in the air, but based on their ruthlessness in waging war against illegal drugs and crime, that possibility isn’t remote.
That President Duterte raised this issue with an audience that included school-age Boy Scout leaders only emphasized the point about his administration’s all-inclusive war which goes down all the way to the barangay level where he will replace incumbent barangay officials whom he suspects are involved in the drug trade.
But do we really need to lower the age of youth offenders to stop drug syndicates from using them as runners for their products, or do the government and other stakeholders still have to put in more effort to draw them back to the fold of the law?
Do we need more punitive action against children, or do we need to demand more accountability from their parents who are chiefly responsible for raising their children in the first place?
Sadly, those are questions the President deems not worth his time to answer since he has a one-track mind in waging war against crime.
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