There are multiple steps, including diversion proceedings, before a case reaches the court for trial proper. Not all Information may be filed after the conduct of preliminary investigation before the investigating prosecutor. Upon the filing of a criminal Information in court, the proper diversion proceedings shall be conducted by the Diversion Committee. Trial commences upon the recommendation by the Diversion Committee, and approval by the court after hearing, that further court proceedings shall proceed.
ARRAIGNMENT AND PLEA
The arraignment shall be scheduled within 3 days from the date of receipt of the complaint or Information by the court, unless a shorter period is provided for by law. In case the child is not assisted by a private counsel, the court shall immediately appoint its Public Attorney as the child’s counsel de officio.
[See also Primer on the 2019 Supreme Court Revised Rule on Children in Conflict with the Law]
Arraignment shall be held in chambers and conducted by the judge by furnishing the child and counsel a copy of the complaint or Information, reading the same in a language or dialect known to and understood by the child, explaining the nature and consequences of a plea of guilty or not guilty and asking the child’s plea.
The provisions of Rule 118 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure shall govern the pre-trial of the child in conflict with the law. Agreements or admissions made during the pre-trial conference shall be in writing and signed by the child, the mother, father or duly appointed guardian, and counsel; otherwise, the agreements or admissions shall not be admissible against the child. Whenever possible and practicable, the court shall explore all possibilities of settlement of the case, except its criminal aspect. Plea bargaining shall be resorted to when it shall serve the best interest of the child and the demands of truth and restorative justice.
All hearings shall be conducted in a manner conducive to the best interest of the child and in an environment that will allow the child to participate fully and freely in accordance with the Rule on Examination of a Child Witness.
DETERMINATION OF THE BESTS INTERESTS OF THE CHILD
The following factors may be considered in determining the best interests of a child in conflict with the law: the child’s age and sex, the child’s mental and physical health, the mental and physical health of the parents, their lifestyle and other social factors; the emotional ties between the parents and the child, the ability of the parents to provide the child with food, shelter, clothing and medical care; the established living pattern for the child concerning school, home, community and religious institution, quality of schooling, the existence of other relatives who may be in a better position to be with the child and the child’s relationship with these relatives; the child’s background, maturity and level of understanding, sexual orientation, lifestyle and any other characteristics and needs of the child that the court may deem relevant.
GUIDING PRINCIPLES IN JUDGING THE CHILD
Subject to the provisions of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, and other special laws, the judgment against a child in conflict with the law shall be guided by the following principles:
- (1) The judgment shall be in proportion to the gravity of the offense, and shall consider the circumstances and the best interest of the child, the rights of the victim, and the needs of society in line with the demands of restorative justice.
- (2) Restrictions on the personal liberty of the child shall be limited to the minimum. Where discretion is given by law to the judge to determine whether the penalty to be imposed is fine or imprisonment, the imposition of fine should be preferred as the more appropriate penalty.
- (3) No corporal punishment shall be imposed.
- (4) In case of the presence of any exculpatory evidence or doubt in the prosecution’s evidence, the doubt shall be resolved in favor of the child.
PROMULGATION OF SENTENCE
If, after the trial, the court should find the child in conflict with the law guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the offense charged, it shall impose the proper penalty, including any civil liability which the child may have incurred, and promulgate the sentence.
SUSPENSION OF SENTENCE
Instead of executing the judgment of conviction, shall place the child in conflict with the law under suspended sentence, without need of application, and without prejudice to the child’s availing of other benefits such as probation, if qualified, or adjustment of penalty, in the interest of justice. [See Automatic Suspension of Sentence and Disposition Orders upon Conviction of Children in Conflict with the Law]
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 to determine if the child may have the sentence suspended under Section 38 of this Rule or if the child may be granted probation under the Probation Law, or 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.
NON-LIABILITY FOR PERJURY OR CONCEALMENT OR MISREPRESENTATION
Any person who has been in conflict with the law as a child shall not be held guilty of perjury or of concealment or misrepresentation by reason of failure to acknowledge the case or recite any fact related thereto in response to any inquiry.
[See also Responsibilities of the Court concerning Children in Conflict with the Law and 2019 Supreme Court Revised Rule on Children in Conflict with the Law]
- Extension of Filing Periods and Suspension of Hearings for March 29 to April 4, 2021: SC Administrative Circular No. 14-2021 (Full Text) - March 28, 2021
- ECQ Bubble for NCR, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal: Resolution No. 106-A (Full Text) - March 27, 2021
- Guidelines on the Administration of COVID-19 Vaccines in the Workplaces (Labor Advisory No. 3) - March 12, 2021