By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — The parents of children who are knowingly committing criminal offenses must also be held accountable under the law, according to Partido Reporma standard-bearer Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, citing a precedent involving a teenager charged with multiple crimes in the United States.
Lacson issued the statement following a discussion on the loopholes of the Comprehensive Juvenile Justice and Welfare System in the country at the ‘Tumindig’ Youth Empowerment forum with officers from the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) held last Friday (December 17) in Baguio City.
A youth leader expressed concern over the apparent inadequacy of our laws related to juvenile justice as the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said was unable to reform wayward minors who are turning to a life of crime.
Lacson said he is aware of these issues and has advocated in the past to revisit Republic Act No. 9344, also known as the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, to address some of its defects particularly in determining the “age of discernment” of children in conflict with the law.
“I think we need to revisit the law kasi na-test na ito—‘yung tinatawag na test of time—may mga isyu, may mga problemang na-e-encounter. Sabi mo nga, nag-commit ng crime, [pero dahil] nga covered ng batas [dinadala lang] sa DSWD, tapos ni-re-release din,” Lacson told the SK officer.
(I think we need to revisit the law because it already went through what we call the test of time and there were issues, problems encountered. As you said, someone committed a crime, but since the law covers that the suspect is taken into the custody of DSWD, the offender is released eventually.)
Amendments to the aforesaid law were already made under Republic Act 10630, which was enacted during the third regular session of the 15th Congress. It transferred the Juvenile Justice Welfare Council from the purview of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to the DSWD.
In 2019, however, the application of Juvenile Justice Law sparked public outrage when members of the House of Representatives approved an amendment to lower the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12 years old against the backdrop of the government’s ‘war on drugs.’
Lacson at the time supported the measure but only up to a certain extent as he found earlier proposals to put nine-year-old suspects in prison too harsh. Nevertheless, he maintained that the law needs to be updated to resolve perennial public concerns over juvenile delinquency.
“I think we should revisit that law kasi may mga (because there are) defects. ‘Yung (The) age of discernment, masyadong malawak (is too broad) … Dapat medyo i-constrict natin nang konti ‘yung definition (We should constrict the definition a little bit),” the veteran lawmaker said.
To this end, Lacson recommended that perhaps the parents of children in conflict with the law must also be held liable if it can be proven beyond reasonable doubt there was negligence on their part, which contributed to the criminal behavior of the child.
“I think dapat ding bigyan ng shared responsibility ‘yung parents, ano. Sa America, ‘di ba, have you heard about that minor who shot to death several persons? ‘Yung parents niya na-charge ng involuntary manslaughter,” Lacson said.
(I think a shared responsibility must be administered to the parents. In America, have you heard about that minor who shot several people to death? His parents were charged with involuntary manslaughter.)
He was referring to the case of 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley, who is being tried as an adult by a court in Michigan for allegedly committing 24 crimes, including murder, attempted murder, and terrorism, according to a report published by Time magazine.
Crumbley is being prosecuted as the primary suspect for the latest school shooting incident in the US. He reportedly killed four students and injured seven at the Oxford High School in Oakland County using a semi-automatic gun that was purchased legally by his father.
Prosecutors likewise charged his parents with four counts of involuntary manslaughter on the belief that their negligence contributed to the violent situation, which could put them in prison for 15 years upon conviction, according to reports.
“So, I guess we can pattern [our laws] after that to impose shared responsibility on the parents. Because after all, while they are still minors, they are under the custody of their parents, who raise and shape the minds of the children,’ he ended. (ai/mtv)