Mis­in­formed pitch

Cebu Daily News - - OPIN­ION -

Af­ter his blun­der over his “na-ano lang” re­mark on sin­gle moth­ers and his al­leged pla­gia­rism years back in us­ing with­out credit a quote from the late US of­fi­cial Robert Kennedy in his speech against what is now the Re­pro­duc­tive Health Act, Sen. Tito Sotto is at it again.

This time, the se­na­tor called on the po­lice to ar­rest mi­nors aged 12 to 17 years old ac­cused of com­mit­ting crimes espe­cially those in­volv­ing il­le­gal drugs, and backed up his call by say­ing that the law pro­hibit­ing the de­ten­tion of mi­nors had been amended.

Se­na­tor Sotto is­sued the call dur­ing a visit to Cebu for an anti-drug sum­mit last week, and the war on il­le­gal drugs by the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion hews closely to his pre­vi­ous in­volve­ment with the Dan­ger­ous Drugs Board.

Whether Sotto was mis­in­formed be­cause he didn’t bother to look it up, or his staff failed to do their re­search, or he de­lib­er­ately over­looked Re­pub­lic Act 10630 or the Act Strength­en­ing the Ju­ve­nile Jus­tice Sys­tem in the Philip­pines, his call to ar­rest un­der­age of­fend­ers is both mis­lead­ing and dan­ger­ous since it can lead to abuse.

Lawyer Joan Saniel of the Chil­dren’s Le­gal Bureau pointed out the flaw in Sotto’s ar­gu­ment when she cited Sec­tion 6 of the law which states that youth of­fend­ers aged 15 to 17 years old should be placed in a fa­cil­ity pend­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion on whether they acted with dis­cern­ment or were aware that they com­mit­ted a crime, and of its con­se­quences.

With no such fa­cil­ity in Cebu, Saniel pointed out that it is up to the Depart­ment of So­cial Wel­fare and De­vel­op­ment (DSWD) to de­ter­mine where to place th­ese youth of­fend­ers.

Un­for­tu­nately, due to con­straints in re­sources and the seem­ing in­abil­ity and lack of po­lit­i­cal will of lo­cal gov­ern­ments to build such fa­cil­i­ties, youth of­fend­ers of­ten end up min­gling with hard­ened adult in­mates where they can be abused and ex­ploited to serve their in­ter­ests.

The case of the youth of­fend­ers de­tained at the Op­er­a­tion Se­cond Chance fa­cil­ity who were found to be sur­rep­ti­tiously dis­tribut­ing drugs to in­mates of the nearby Cebu City Jail is one such glar­ing ex­am­ple.

Maybe some­one should point that out to Se­na­tor Sotto the next time he pitches his call to po­lice to ar­rest ju­ve­nile delin­quents or of­fend­ers. Does the se­na­tor re­ally want them to end up be­com­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of crim­i­nals be­cause he wanted them jailed and treated like their adult coun­ter­parts?

That ques­tion should also be asked of our lo­cally elected of­fi­cials who have not showed any con­crete com­mit­ment to chil­dren’s wel­fare be­yond mere speeches and sound­bytes and to us who see th­ese ju­ve­nile of­fend­ers ei­ther per­son­ally or in some TV doc­u­men­tary or news story.

Do we want th­ese youth of­fend­ers to be jailed like Se­na­tor Sotto wants to, or are we will­ing to join the clamor for lo­cal gov­ern­ments to pro­vide fa­cil­i­ties and peo­ple who can guide them to a bet­ter life?

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