No case versus girl

August 13,2014 - 09:12 AM

She kept her head down and sobbed into her mother’s lap.

“Dili ko gusto ma-filean og kaso,” said the 14-year-old girl. (I don’t want to be charged.)

After being caught on Saturday delivering P5.9 million worth of shabu in barangay Labangon, Cebu City, the girl was taken yesterday to the prosecutors’ office where a complaint for violating the country’s drug laws was filed against her.

But a special law that gives minors immunity from criminal prosecution would save her from getting jailed.

The girl sobbed as she entered the Palace of Justice at around 4 p.m. yesterday and was presented to Assistant City Prosecutor Alex Gabud.

As expected, the prosecutor said the girl could not be charged with any criminal offense as mandated under Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2004.

The police charges will be dismissed outright.

“Since she is 14 years old, she’s exempted from criminal liability. We cannot file any case against her in court. I’ll instead refer her to the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) for intervention,” Gabud told reporters.

The girl’s mother was also present during the inquest proceedings.

The Office of the City Prosecutor is expected to release a resolution this morning formalizing the dismissal of the case and telling police to turn over the girl to social workers in accordance with R.A. 9344.

The girl was arrested Saturday evening by policemen from the City Intelligence Branch (CIIB) of the Cebu City Police Office in a buy-bust operation in barangay Labangon.

In their joint affidavit, the police officers said a confidential informant called the office and tipped them off about the girl’s whereabouts.

Police said the girl has been under surveillance for some time as a courier and has been “very elusive.”

Supt. Romeo Santander, CIB chief, earlier said the girl’s handler would text her a customer’s order and the girl would be the one to meet the client and hand over the drugs.

Policemen who posed as buyers negotiated a sale with the girl for the purchase of shabu worth P50,000.

Undercover policemen went to the girl’s rented room in Labangon where the deal was concluded.
They arrested her after she handed over 25 grams of shabu.

Police also recovered 12 “big” and “large” transparent plastic bags suspected to contain shabu, a plastic spoon, lighter, and a digital weighing scale.

What happens to the girl?

“It would be up to the DSWD on what program they will implement and how long it would be. We’ll keep our hands off her once we refer her to DSWD,” Gabud said.

Ester Concha, chief of the Department of Social Welfare Services (DSWS), said they are ready to do psycho-social intervention and counsel the girl.

“I am just waiting for a written order coming from the fiscal,” she said.

Concha said the Women and Children’s Protection Desk of the Cebu City Police Office has not told them anything on the status of the girl.

“We were never informed,” she said, adding that she had to send a staffer to the police headquarters to get a situation report.

(It’s already Tuesday. They never contacted us and it was last Saturday when the incident happened),” she said.

Supt. Santander, chief of the CIB, said police would press ahead in filing the case and continue investigating.

He said drug pushers have been using minors in the drug trade to take advantage of loopholes in the law.

“Dili gyud ni namo palampason. (We won’t let this pass.) We want to make this an example to show that they cannot exploit a child,” he said earlier.

Under Section 6 of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, “a child 15 years of age or under at the time of the commission of the offense shall be exempt from criminal liability.”

The law also mandates authorities to release the child to the custody of his or her parents or guardian, or in the absence thereof, the child’s nearest relative.

The local social welfare and development officer shall determine the appropriate programs in consultation with the child and to the person having custody over the child.

While he pitied the girl, Prosecutor Gabud echoed calls to amend the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act.

“Minor offenders below 15 years old are very fortunate. I hope legislators will understand that minors aged 15 and below are already very wise,” he said.

Veteran lawyer Democrito Barcenas, former president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines’ Cebu City chapter, agreed.

Barcenas reiterated the call of the IBP Cebu City chapter for the amendment of R.A. 9344 authoried by Sen. Francis Pangilinan.

“That Pangilinan law should be amended,” said Barcenas.

“Exempting minors from criminal liability has been taken advantage of. Besides, with advances in technology and education, minors aged 15, 14, 13, or 12 already have a wide range of experience.

We could not say that they are not capable of any criminal intent,” he added.

Barcenas said the IBP Cebu City chapter had already sent a letter to both the House of Representatives and the Senate to revisit R.A. 9344 a couple of years ago. But until now, the organization has yet to receive any response from Congress

“We’ve been hearing stories of minors who were capable of killing other individuals. The problem is our legislators are just copying laws from foreign countries without taking into consideration our culture,” he said.

Lawyer Vincent Isles of the Children’s Legal Bureau (CLB) opposes jailing minor offenders or exposing them to criminal trial.

“CLB is against lowering the age of criminal responsibility,” he told CDN over the phone.
Isles said the 14-year-old girl who was arrested was a “victim of circumstances.”

“She’s not yet fully aware of the criminal consequences of her acts. When we punish the child-victims, our society has doubly failed them—first, in keeping them away from criminal influences; and second, for punishing them for our failure in keeping them from criminal influences,” he said.

“We can’t address the problem by putting criminal liability on minor offenders. We should instead run after crime syndicates who continue to exploit children for nefarious activties,” he added. /With Correspondent Apple Ta-as

Related Story:

Girl, 14, delivers shabu worth P5.9 million


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TAGS: 14 year-old, Children’s Legal Bureau, drugs, shabu

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