If the child is found guilty after trial of the offense charged, the court, instead of executing the judgment of conviction, shall place the child in conflict with the law under suspended sentence, without need of application. Suspension of sentence can be availed of even if the child is already 18 years of age or more but not above 21 years old, at the time of the pronouncement of guilt, without prejudice to the child’s availing of other benefits such as probation, if qualified, or adjustment of penalty, in the interest of justice.
WHEN SUSPENDED SENTENCE NOT APPLICABLE
The benefits of suspended sentence shall not apply to a child in conflict with the law who:
- (a) is above 21 years old at the time of the pronouncement of guilt; or
- (b) has once enjoyed suspension of sentence.
[See also Primer on the 2019 Supreme Court Revised Rule on Children in Conflict with the Law]
WHEN CHILD REACHES 18 YEARS OLD
If the child in conflict with the law reaches 18 years of age while under suspended sentence, the court shall determine, upon the recommendation of the social worker assigned to the child and after considering the various circumstances, whether to:
- (a) discharge the child; or
- (b) extend the suspended sentence for a maximum period of up to the time the child reaches 21 years of age; or
- (c) order service of sentence.
In case of suspended sentence, the court shall set the case for disposition conference within 15 days from the promulgation of sentence with notice to the social worker of the court, the child and the parents or guardian of the child and the child’s counsel, the victim and counsel. At the conference, the court shall proceed to determine and issue, any or a combination of the following disposition measures best suited to the rehabilitation and welfare of the child:
- (1) Care, guidance, and supervision orders;
- (2) Community service orders;
- (3) Drug and alcohol treatment;
- (4) Participation in group counseling and similar activities; and
- (5) Commitment to the Youth Rehabilitation Center of the Department of Social Welfare and Development or other centers for children in conflict with the law authorized by the Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
COMPLIANCE WITH DISPOSITION MEASURES
The social worker assigned to the child shall monitor the compliance by the child in conflict with the law with the disposition measures and shall submit regularly to the court a status and progress report on the matter. The court may set a conference for the evaluation of such report in the presence, if practicable, of the child, the parents or guardian, counsel and other persons whose presence may be deemed necessary.
DISCHARGE OF CHILD SUBJECT OF DISPOSITION MEASURE
Upon the recommendation of the social worker assigned to the child, the court shall, after due notice to all parties and hearing, dismiss the case against the child who has been issued disposition measures, even before reaching 18 years of age, and order a final discharge if it finds that the child has been rehabilitated and has shown the capability to be a useful member of the community.
However, the child shall be brought before the court for execution of the judgment if the court finds that the child:
- (a) is incorrigible; or
- (b) has not shown the capability of becoming a useful member of society; or
- (c) has willfully failed to comply with the conditions of the disposition or rehabilitation program; or
- (d) the child’s continued stay in the training institution is not in the child’s best interest.
The final release of the child shall not extinguish the civil liability. The parents and other persons exercising parental authority over the child shall be civilly liable for the injuries and damages caused by the acts or omissions of the child living in their company and under the parental authority subject to the appropriate defenses provided by law.
PROBATION AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO IMPRISONMENT
The court may, after it shall have convicted and sentenced a child in conflict with the law and upon application at any time, place the child on probation if qualified, in lieu of service of sentence taking into account the best interest of the child.
CREDIT IN SERVICE OF SENTENCE
The child in conflict with the law shall be credited in the service of his/her sentence with the full time spent in actual commitment and detention. Any form of physical restraint imposed on the child in conflict with the law, including community service and commitment to a rehabilitation center, shall be considered preventive imprisonment.
CONFIDENTIALITY OF PROCEEDINGS AND RECORD
All records and proceedings involving children in conflict with the law from initial contact until final disposition of the case by the court shall be considered privileged and confidential.
The public shall be excluded during the proceedings and pursuant to the provisions of Section 31 of the Rule on Examination of a Child Witness, the records shall not be disclosed directly or indirectly to anyone by any of the parties or the participants in the proceedings for any purpose whatsoever, except:
- (a) to determine if the child may have the sentence suspended; or
- (b) if the child may be granted probation under the Probation Law; or
- (c) to enforce the civil liability imposed in the criminal action.
The court shall employ other measures to protect confidentiality of proceedings including non-disclosure of records to the media, the maintenance of a separate police blotter for cases involving children in conflict with the law and the adoption of a system of coding to conceal material information, which will lead to the child’s identity.
The records of children in conflict with the law shall not be used in subsequent proceedings or cases involving the same offender as an adult, except when beneficial for the offender and upon his/her written consent.
SEALING OF RECORDS
The court, motu proprio or upon application of a person who has been adjudged a child in conflict with the law, or if still a minor, on motion of the parents or legal guardian, shall, upon notice to the prosecution and after hearing, order the sealing of the records of the case if it finds that 2 years have elapsed since the final discharge of the child after suspension of sentence or probation, or from the date of the closure order and the child has no pending case of an offense or a crime involving moral turpitude.
Upon entry of the order, the case shall be treated as if it never occurred. All index references shall be deleted and in case of inquiry, the court, prosecution, law enforcement officers and all other offices and agencies that dealt with the case shall reply that no record exists with respect to the child concerned. Copies of the order shall be sent to these officials and agencies named in the order. Inspection of the sealed records thereafter may be permitted only by order of the court upon petition of the child who is the subject of the records or of other proper parties. This procedure shall be without prejudice to the rule on destruction of video or audio tapes under Section 31 of the Rule on the Examination of a Child Witness.
[See also Conduct of Trial for Children in Conflict with the Law and 2019 Supreme Court Revised Rule on Children in Conflict with the Law]
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