VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte misinforms public on juvenile justice law

President Rodrigo Duterte misinforms the public anew in saying that the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act, also called the “Pangilinan Law” after its principal author, allows 15-year-olds to go “scot-free” no matter the crime.

STATEMENT

In a speech during the 156th birth anniversary of Filipino hero Andres Bonifacio, Duterte again criticized opposition leader Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan while ranting about the country’s crime problem:

“Alam mo ba ‘yun si Pangilinan? Kayo, kayo lahat...bumilib kayo sa gunggong na ‘yan? ‘Yan ang...nag-ano ng batas na hindi mo mahuli [ang] (That Pangilinan? You all idolized that idiot? He’s the one who [made] the law that prohibits the arrest of [kids who are]) 15 years old. They go in and out of prison because of the Pangilinan law...They steal, they kill, they rape and kill. Whatever the crime is. They are scot-free.”

Source: Presidential Communications Operations Office, Speech of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte During the 156th Birth Anniversary of Gat Andres Bonifcaio, Nov. 30, 2019, watch from 17:59 to 18:47

FACT

Contrary to the president’s claim, child offenders aged 15 to 18 who were proven to have acted with “discernment” may be held criminally liable and “subjected to appropriate proceedings” under the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act. (See VERA Files Fact Check: In one speech, Duterte unloads 9 false claims)

Discernment is defined by the Supreme Court as a child’s capacity to “understand the difference between right and wrong and the consequences of the wrongful act.” (See VERA FILES FACT SHEET: The proposed changes to the Juvenile Justice Law)

The juvenile justice law, enacted in 2006 and amended in 2013, further outlines corresponding intervention programs depending on the child’s age, and the gravity or frequency of the crime committed.

For instance, 12- to 15-year-olds who commit “serious crimes” -- such as murder, rape, or robbery with homicide -- must be placed in an intensive juvenile intervention and support center within a youth care facility for at least a year.

Official police data obtained by VERA Files show reported cases committed by children in conflict with the law (CICL) have been reduced by almost a fifth from 2016 to 2018, and made up only 2.3 percent of the total 473,068 crimes reported last year. (See VERA FILES FACT SHEET: Three things you need to know about crimes committed by minors)

From January to November 2019, the Philippine National Police (PNP) has recorded 9,573 crimes committed by minors. Reckless imprudence resulting in physical injury top the list at 1,780 or 18.59 percent of the total, followed by theft at 1,285 or 13.42 percent.

These two are also the top violations of minors recorded by the police for the full years of 2016 to 2018.


Violations of the comprehensive dangerous drugs act rank third, accounting for 913 or almost 10 percent of the crimes committed by minors reported from January to November this year. These violations may include the possession, use, or sale of illegal drugs.

In January 2017, Duterte said the juvenile justice law “produced a generation of criminals.” Official government data did not bear out his claim. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Did Pangilinan law produce a generation of criminals?)

While the president repeatedly singles out Pangilinan for authoring the original law, legislative records show it received overwhelming support in both houses of Congress at the time.

The law was even certified as urgent by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who changed her stance early this year “in support” of Duterte’s “request.” (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Arroyo changes stance on juvenile justice for Duterte)



Sources

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Speech of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte During the 156th Birth Anniversary of Gat Andres Bonifcaio, Nov. 30, 2019

Official Gazette, Republic Act 9344

Official Gazette, Republic Act 10630

Supreme Court Revised Rule on Children in Conflict with the Law A.M. 02-1-18 SC

Philippine National Police, Data on Reported Crimes Committed by Children in Conflict with the Law from 2016 to 2018

Philippine National Police, Data on Reported Crimes Committed by Children in Conflict with the Law from January to November 2019

Senate.gov.ph, Senate Bill 1402 - Legislative History

Congress.gov.ph, House Bill 5065 - History


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

FOR FURTHER READING

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