Bernabe stressed the importance of restorative justice in dealing with child offenders. “In restorative justice, all the parties involved as well as the community will help in the rehabilitation and restitution of the offender so that he/she will understand the consequences of what he/she did.”
“In this system, the accused and the victim will face each other to make the accused realize the extent of damage to the victim and help him to correct it, Bernabe said. ” “The offender must understand the consequence of what he did. The parents will also be held accountable.”
Parents, the community and LGUs will be also involved in the rehabilitation of the youth offender or CICL. “It is the responsibility of the state to make sure that the conflict between the accused and the victim will be resolved with the appropriate program (depending on the gravity of the crime committed) that will help in the rehabilitation of the accused (psycho social and therapy for rape, murder, etc.),” Berbabe added.
In RA 9344, when the youth offender is found guilty of the crime with a penalty of not more than six years of imprisonment the offender will undergo a diversion program. Diversion, according to the law, refers to an alternative, child-appropriate process of determining the responsibility of a youth offender on the basis of his or her social, cultural, economic, psychological or educational background without resorting to formal court proceedings.
Among the diversion programs (in the barangay level) are restitution of property, reparation of damaged caused, indemnification for consequential damage, written or oral apology, care, guidance and supervision order, counseling for the the child in conflict with the law and his/her family. A lecture on anger management, problem solving and/or conflict resolution skills, value formation and other skills which will aid the child in dealing with situations, which can lead to repetition of the offense. At the level of the appropriate court, the offender will also be turned over to institutional care and custody.
In its position paper, Payo hopes that the principles of restorative justice may be truly implemented under RA 9344 and that concerns of the victims may not just be relegated to the background, but truly given importance; that offenders may be rehabilitated and successfully reintegrated into their families and communities and; that communities may play a more active role in preventing juvenile crime and ensuring peace in their areas.
Salinlahi, meanwhile, said the lack of budget from the government prevents the full implementation of the Juvenile Justice Intervention Program.
“The effectiveness of this law actually depends on how the government prioritizes the welfare of these children. The Congress and the Senate determine the budget of the government agencies. Thus, they can be considered as contributors to the failure of the law. For five years, JJWC only received less than one percent of the budget of the Department of Justice (DOJ). This meager budget allocation hinders the full and efficient implementation of the law. Salinlahi believes that the correct implementation, with proper education about the law and a sufficient budget allocation should be prioritized by the government,” San Miguel said.