AGE OF DISCERNMENT?
THE national debate over the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility (MACR) rages in Pangasinan as well.
The recent revelation of the Pangasinan Police Provincial Office (PPPO) that the number of children in conflict with the law (CICL) in the province has been increasing over the last three years, from 232 in 2016, 260 in 2017 and 265 in 2018 but this fact has not convinced the Pangasinan Association of Social Workers (PASW) to the proposition the MACR be lowered to 12 from the original 15 years old.
PASW believes that merely strengthening existing law is the answer to address the current issue.
P/Sr. Inspector Ria Tacderan, PPPO information officer, told the KBP Forum last week that offenses of the CICLs range from petty theft to rape, including illegal drugs.
Tacderan pointed out that in 2016, there were seven (6-9 years old), CICL 20 (10- 12 years old) and 71 (13 to 15 years old) offenders.
On children involved in illegal drugs, there were 16 in 2016, 10 in 2017 and 21 in 2018.
The figures were culled from reports of the Women’s and Children’s Protection Desk of the police in 48 towns and cities of Pangasinan but Tacderan hinted there could probably be more cases unreported or not arrested by the police.
She cited poverty to be behind theft cases related to hunger or envy of others who have more in life.
“What is really worrisome is the involvement of the youth as early as 15 years old in rape,” said Tacderan who confirmed that the number of CICL involved in rape cases is high.
“It is worrisome in the sense that we can no longer bring back the feeling of a child or a person who is a victim of rape,” she said.
She pointed out that CILCs are referred by the police to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) that in turn endorses them to the Regional Rehabilitation and Training Center in Urayong, Aringay, La Union to ensure their complete reformation.
Meanwhile, Editha Gorospe, municipal and social welfare officer of Calasiao town, said members of the Pangasinan Social Welfare Officers Inc. held a meeting recently and adopted a position that the age of criminal or social responsibility must not be lowered.
She said Republic Act No. 9344 directs the reformation of CICLs in Pag-asa Youth Centers but local governments have not complied, citing the existence of only one in Pangasinan, the the Pag-asa Youth Center in Urdaneta City.
The regional youth center in Aringay, La Union, she said, caters to CiCLs not only from Region 1 but also from Region 2, Region 3, and the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).
At the same time, Gorospe said the CICLs mostly come from dysfunctional families who failed to provide proper guidance to their children.
Evelyn Dismaya of the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office, said the provincial government has already set aside P20 million for a Pag-asa Youth Center but it has yet to find a land for it. (Leonardo Micua)
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