Press Release
October 26, 2011

Sotto wants juvenile justice law amended

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER VICENTE C. SOTTO III is taking a stance on the snowballing call to amend the country's juvenile justice law and is proposing the lowering of the exemption from criminal responsibility to the age of 11 from the current 15.

The lawmaker's position stemmed from the issue on drug syndicates exploiting minors to peddle illegal substance, impeding the campaign against the growing incidence of drug trafficking in the country.

Worse, their exposure in the drug industry also makes them vulnerable to substance abuse.

"Drug dependence is a prevalent problem among minors today. That's why I filed a bill calling for the amendment of the Juvenile Justice Act. I proposed to bring back to the age of 11 and below the exemption of those in conflict with the law from criminal liability. The current law provides for the exemption of 18 years old and below," the Majority Leader said.

"But that is the problem now confronting the country's drug enforcers and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) because whenever they apprehend drug users and pushers aged between 15 to 16, they cannot even interrogate them. Most of the times, the lawyers of the drug syndicates they're working for would immediately come to their rescue," he explained.

Under his filed Senate Bill No. 43, a child above 11 years but below 13 years of age who acted without discernment at that time of the commission of the crime, shall be exempt from criminal responsibility but subjected to appropriate intervention program.

Authorities, who have taken them into custody, has the duty to immediately release the child to his or her parents or guardian and in the absence of such, to the nearest relative.

Authorities will also be mandated to notify the local social welfare and development officer who will determine the appropriate programs in consultation with the person having custody over the child.

If the parents, guardians or nearest relatives cannot be located, or if they refuse to take custody, the child may be released to any of the following: a duly registered nongovernmental or religious organization; a barangay official or a member of the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC); a local social welfare and development officer; or when and where appropriate, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

If the child happens to be abandoned, neglected or abused by his parents or in the event that the parents will not comply with the prevention program, the proper petition for involuntary commitment shall be filed by the DSWD or the local social welfare and development office pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 603, otherwise known as "The Child and Youth Welfare Code."

Unless they were found to have acted with discernment at the time of the commission of the crime, they shall be subjected to an appropriate diversion program.

On the other hand, those who are 11 or above but below 18 years of age who are found to have acted with discernment and is charged, prosecuted and or convicted of an offense punishable under R.A. 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, the provisions of that law will apply.

They will serve sentence upon reaching the age of 18 years. The Majority Leader has also taken into consideration the fact of the lack of a national penitentiary for drug crimes.

"With due respect to the author and the members of Congress during that time when the law was passed, I think they overlooked the issue on illegal drugs," he said. Sen. Sotto said information that has reached him showed that more than 50% of those convicted of drug trafficking in the country confined in city and provincial jails, continue to operate even behind bars.

Establishing a national penitentiary for drug crimes will give teeth to government's campaign against illegal drugs, he pointed out.

News Latest News Feed