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Press Room

IJJO Interviews- Mr. Alberto Muyot - UNICEF Philippines

Friday 26th of May 2006 | National, Philippines

One of the ambition of the IJJO is to offer you day after day an updated and personalized information. That is why we have created a new service which is called 'IJJO Interviews'. In this first edition, the IJJO has asked Mr. Alberto Muyot, UNICEF (Philippines), to answer our questions about the new law that has been approved in the Philippines: ‘The Juvenile Justice Welfare Act 2006'.

This law forbids the imprisonment of minors, increases the criminal liability age from 9 to 15 years old, and introduces the concept of restorative justice instead of criminal justice.This law also permits the creation of rehabilitation programmes and alternatives for imprisonment, as well as rehabilitation services and accompaniment of the minor.

In this interview, Mr. Muyot, member of UNICEF Philippines, tells about the progress of the situation of minors in conflict with the law and a better protection of the minor’s rights.


Alberto T. Muyot is a project officer of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Manila, Philippines, where he manages the project on Legal Protection and Justice System for Children. He played a key role in the drafting of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act in the Philippines.

He was a professor of law in the University of the Philippines and was formerly the Director of the university’s Institute of Human Rights.

He has written extensively on human rights, international humanitarian law and peace and conflict resolution. The University of the Philippines Law Center published his book 'Philippine Law and Jurisprudence on Human Rights in 1999'. His most recent book 'Social Justice and Human Rights in The Philippines' was published by the University of the Philippines Press in 2003 for the Center for Leadership, Citizenship and Democracy of the National College of Public Administration and Governance. He has also written legal articles on the system of justice for children.

He was a consultant in several projects seeking to introduce reforms in the administration of justice in the Philippines.

Question - What was the situation of juveniles in conflict with the law before the passing of the 'Juvenile Justice and Welfare act 2006' in Philippines?

Answer - The age of criminal responsibility was 9 years of age. Children who are accused of committing an offence are arrested, charged in court and detained in jails together with adult offenders. Philippine jails are congested and the conditions are very poor. There was an estimated average of 4,000 children in detention all over the country. Around 70% of the offences committed by children are petty offences.The hearing of cases in court is very slow, so that the length of pre-trial detention usually extends to several months.

Q.- What main changes or improvements does this law contribute to the juveniles welfare?

A.- The new law raises the age of criminal responsibility to 15 years of age. It enumerates the rights of children in conflict with the law. It prohibits the detention of children in jails and provides for alternatives to detention. It adopts restorative justice as a framework and provides for prevention, diversion, rehabilitation, reintegration and aftercare programmes. It prohibits the imposition of the death penalty on children. It strengthens the local councils for the protection of children and creates a national council on juvenile justice and welfare.

Q.- At what level or levels will minors notice this change as a result of the recently passed 'juvenile justice and welfare act 2006'?

A.- In relation to offences committed before the law took effect, those who were 15 years of age or younger at the time of the commission of the offence will be immediately benefited because the law provides for retroactive application. The cases against them will be dismissed and they will be released.

For those who committed an offence after the law took effect:

- those who are 15 years of age of younger will not be criminally responsible and hence cannot be charged in court.This will be immediately effective.
- those who are above 15 but less than 18 years of age will be referred to diversion if they commit non-serious offences.But this might take at least a year to fully implement since the implementing rules and regulations are still to be issued and social workers and local councils for the protection of children still have to be trained on diversion programmes.

Q.- What are the diversion measures arranged in the new juvenile’s penal legislation?

A.- These measures include:

- written or oral apology
- restitution of property
- reparation of the damage caused
- indemnification of consequential damages
- care, guidance and supervision orders
- confiscation and forfeiture of the proceeds or instruments of the crime
- fine
- payment of costs of the proceedings
- written or oral reprimand or citation
- counselling
- attendance in seminars on: anger management; conflict resolution; values formation; etc.
- community service
- participation in education, vocation or life skills programmes
- institutional care or custody

Q.- Does this law include the possibility of educational or integration centres for youth offenders? If yes, What are its characteristics? What kind of training profile is going to be used for the professionals in contact with the minor?

A.- Yes, it does, but the details are not spelled out in the law itself.The Department of Social Welfare and Development has existing standards for its regional rehabilitation centres (it has 11 at present).

Q.- What kind of entities will facilitate the aplication of this new legislative system?

A.- To make the system work the active participation of the following is necessary:

- the child and parents or guardians
- the victim
- the social worker
- the local council for the protection of children
- the local government
- the police
- if the case is filed: the court, the prosecutor, the public defender, the police, the corrections officer, the court’s social worker

The participation of other government agencies, NGOs, schools, the private sector, faith-based organizations, media and other sectors is also important.

Q.- What juvenile delinquency prevention measures or resources are stipulated in this new juvenile justice system in Philippines?

A.- The law provides that the local governments shall develop 3-year juvenile delinquency prevention programmes. One percent (1%) of the internal revenue of each local government unit shall be allocated to the local council for the protection of children for the implementation of the programmes.

The details of the programmes are not spelled out in the law, but UNICEF has developed a framework for community-based juvenile delinquency prevention programmes which can be the basis for developing local programmes.

Q.- How is the situation of minors under death penalty going to be managed?

A.- Even under the old law, the imposition of the death penalty on minors is not allowed. However, because of failure of the defence to establish the age, some minors were imposed a death penalty. The law remedies this by providing for a presumption of minority. Hence, it is now the burden of the prosecution to establish through competent evidence that the accused is 18 years of age or older.

As to those who have been erroneously sentenced to death, the Supreme Court had ordered the reopening of their cases as to the issue of age.

Q.- Once the 'Juvenile Justice Welfare Act 2006' comes into force, what percentage of minors will be expected to leave the Philippine prisons?

A.- According to the Department of Social Welfare and Development, some 2,000 of the estimated 4,000 children in detention can immediately seek their release.

Q.- What kind of therapeutical resources of psychological help will those juveniles have who leave prison when this law comes into force?

A.- Bio-psychosocial intervention shall be provided by local social workers and social workers from the Department of Social Welfare and Development. The immediate task is to train these social workers.The Department is currently developing a plan on the intervention to be provided to the children released from detention. Based on the present programme of the Department, it is expected that this will include:

- competency and life skills development
- socio-cultural and recreational activities
- community volunteer projects
- leadership training
- social services
- home life services
- health services
- spiritual enrichment
- community and family welfare services


More information

Document

Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006

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  • International Juvenile Justice Observatory (IJJO). Belgian Public Utility Foundation

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  • Head Office: Rue Armand Campenhout, nº 72 bte 10. 1050. Brussels. Belgium

    Phone: 00 32 262 988 90. Fax: 00 32 262 988 99. oijj@oijj.org

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