As the country marked the 15th year of enactment of Juvenile Justice Welfare Act (JJWA) or Republic Act 9344 recently, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and its attached agency, the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council here vowed to remain committed in promoting and protecting the rights of the children.

This year’s celebration carried the theme, “JJWA: Patuloy sa Pagtataguyod sa Karapatan ng mga Bata sa Bagong Normal!”

“We are happy to reach this far in the fight for the welfare and protection of children. Our battle to ensure that no child is jailed and that children are not treated as criminals is now being realized,” said Regional Director Ma. Evelyn B. Macapobre of DSWD Field Office VI.

In Western Visayas, the Regional Juvenile Justice Welfare Council, which ensures the implementation of JJWA, is chaired by DSWD with members from Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Department of Justice (DOJ), Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Health (DoH), National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), Philippine National Police – Women and Children’s Desk, Provincial Social Welfare and Development Offices, Signpost Philippines, Iloilo Children Welfare Foundation, Children and Youth Representatives, League of Barangays, League of Cities and Municipalities and League of Provinces.

JJWA gives hope and second chance to Children at Risk (CAR) and Children in Conflict with the Law or (CICL), to restore their lives and dignity, and to start anew and create a better future for themselves.

“The department and JJWC have persevered to ensure the full implementation of RA 9344 since its enactment in 2006,” stressed Director Macapobre.

Prior to the enactment of the law, children committing petty crimes or status offenses were treated similarly as adult offenders.

As recalled, from 1995 to 2000, a total of 52,576 children were in detention or under custodial setting while an average of 10, 512 children were being arrested every year with few cases being resolved.

To note, majority of jails all over our country do not have a separate detention facility for children.

The CICL then suffered from different kinds of abuses especially under custody or detention but Macapobre said that the enactment of JJWA have altered this picture, leading to a child protection law.

JJWA mandates the adoption of the principle of restorative justice, prohibiting the detention of children in jails, providing juvenile offenders prevention programs at the local level, introducing diversion and, strengthening the rehabilitation, reintegration, and after care programs.

“This law also seeks to establish protective environment for children, so that they will not commit crimes or be victims of crimes,” Director Macapobre added.

Last year, a total of 1,079 children from BPAs and other youth care facilities were reintegrated into the community.

“We, strongly encourage our local government units to continue to uphold, children’s rights through appropriate interventions, and ensure the full implementation of the law, especially at this time when we are facing a pandemic. The protection of the rights of the children should never be compromised,” she said.

Meanwhile, the DSWD6 head, also cited the many efforts of JJWC taken to ensure the full implementation of the law.

These include enhancement in various aspects of its mandate focusing on Policy Formulation and Program Development, Research and Information Management, Advocacy and Social Mobilization, Technical Assistance to Stakeholders, and Monitoring and Evaluation.

“The DSWD and JJWC remain committed in promoting and protecting the rights of CAR and CICL under restorative justice and welfare system,” Director Macapobre finally said. (dswd6/JMB/with report from DSWD Social Marketing Service and RJJWC)