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New Juvenile Justice Law in the Philippines

With the signing of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act 2006 by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Philippines introduced a new juvenile justice system. Among the many provisions seeking to protect children in conflict with the law, the legislation calls for restorative justice to be an integral part of the new system.
In outlining the principles of juvenile justice, the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act 2006 calls for restorative justice to be incorporated into all “laws, policies and programmes applicable to children in conflict with the law.” It defines restorative justice as

“… a principle which requires a process of resolving conflicts with the maximum involvement of the victim, the offender and the community. It seeks to obtain reparation for the victim; reconciliation of the offender, the offended and the community; and reassurance to the offender that he/she can be reintegrated into society. It also enhances public safety by activating the offender, the victim and the community in prevention strategies.”

Restorative justice is featured in Chapter 2, which outlines diversion procedures.  According to paragraph (a), individuals responsible for responding to crimes by young offenders “shall conduct mediation, family conferencing and conciliation and, where appropriate, adopt indigenous modes of conflict resolution in accordance with the best interest of the child with a view of accomplishing the objectives of restorative justice and the formulation of a diversion program.” The section provides for creation of a diversion contract during those processes and the steps to take if the contract is not completed. Diversion can be used at all stages of the criminal justice system.

The Act, which was passed unanimously by the Filipino Congress, is a response to criticisms of the conditions under which young offenders were being held in prisons. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund an estimated 4,000 children were imprisoned at the end of 2005, most of them charged with minor crimes. Under the new legislation, children under the age of 15 cannot be charged with a crime. For 15- to 18-year-old juveniles, diversion away from court is the preferred method for responding to crimes that carry a possible sentence of six years or less.

The legislation became effective in May and is already having an impact for some juveniles. Over 500 children have been transfered from jails to youth homes. It is estimated that over 1,500 criminal cases against young offenders younger than 15 will be dismissed as the law is implemented retroactively. The new diversion provisions will take longer to implement as local committees for the protection of children are formed and personnel are trained. 



Information Sources:

Balana, Cynthia D. 2006. 1,504 cases vs minors to be voided by new law. Philippine Daily Inquirer. May 19.

Congress of the Philippines. Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006. Republic Act Number 9344.

Philippine President signs new law merciful to young offenders. Xinhua News Agency. May 4, 2006.

Philippines enacts law on juvenile justice system. UNICEF Philippines.
 

Pilapil, Jaime. 2006. Puno orders release of jailed juveniles. Manila Standard. May 18, 2006.

Ubac, Michael Lim. 2006. Hope Floats for Minors in Prison. Philippine Daily Inquirer. February 15.


Lynette Parker
September 2006

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