On 22 January 2019, the Supreme Court resolved to promulgate the 2019 Supreme Court Revised Rule on Children in Conflict with the Law (A.M. No. 02-1-18-SC). This is a primer on or introduction to the Revised Rule on Children in Conflict with the Law or CICL.
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE RULE
In 2002, the Supreme Court promulgated the Rule on Juveniles in Conflict with the Law (A.M. No. 02-2-18-SC) to govern the procedure in cases involving juvenile offenders. Four years later, in 2006, Congress passed a law entitled the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 (Republic Act No. 9344).
On account of the new law, the Supreme Court promulgated the Revised Rule on Children in Conflict with the Law, which took effect on 1 December 2009. Congress subsequently amended the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006. On 7 November 2013, Republic Act No. 10630 took effect, establishing a comprehensive juvenile justice system, strengthening the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council and placing it under the administrative supervision of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
The Supreme Court had to further amend the Revised Rule on Children in Conflict with the Law to harmonize the same with the amendments under R.A. 10630. The amendments are contained in the 2019 Supreme Court Revised Rule on Children in Conflict with the Law.
COVERAGE OF THE REVISED RULE
The Revised Rule applies to all criminal cases involving children in conflict with the law, or those who are below 18 years old who is alleged as, accused of, or adjudged as having committed an offense under Philippine Laws.
The Revised Rule does not apply to:
1. A person who, at the time of the initial contact, shall have reached the age of 18 in which case, the regular rules on criminal procedure shall apply. “Initial contact” means the apprehension or taking into custody of a child in conflict with the law by law enforcement officers or private citizens
2. Children at risk. As defined in the Revised Rule, a “child at risk” refers to a child who is vulnerable to and at the risk of committing criminal offenses because of personal, family and social circumstances, such as, but not limited to the following:
- (1) Being abused by any person through sexual, physical, psychological, mental, economic or any other means, and the parents or guardian refuse, are unwilling, or unable to provide protection for the child;
- (2) Being exploited sexually or economically;
- (3) Being abandoned or neglected, and after diligent search and inquiry, the parent or guardian cannot be found;
- (4) Coming from a dysfunctional or broken family, or without a parent or guardian;
- (5) Being out of school;
- (6) Being a street child;
- (7) Being a member of a gang;
- (8) Living in a community with a high level of criminality or drug abuse; and
- (9) Living in situations of armed conflict.
The term “child at risk” covers children who violate ordinances enacted by local governments concerning juvenile status offenses such as, but not limited to, curfew violations, truancy, parental disobedience, anti-smoking and anti-drinking laws, as well as light offenses and misdemeanors against public order or safety such as, but not limited to, disorderly conduct, public scandal, harassment, drunkenness, public intoxication, criminal nuisance, vandalism, gambling, mendicancy, littering, public urination and trespassing who shall not be penalized but instead proceeded in accordance with Section 57-A of Republic Act No. 9344, as amended.
AGE OF CRIMINAL RESPONSIBILITY
Age of criminal responsibility is the age when a child above 15 years but below 18 years of age commits an offense with discernment.
A child is deemed to be 15 years of age on the day of the 15th anniversary of his/her birthdate. Discernment means the capacity of the child at the time of the commission of the offense to understand the difference between right and wrong and the consequences of the wrongful act.
EXEMPTION FROM CRIMINAL LIABILITY
A child 15 years of age or under at the time of the commission of the offense shall be exempt from criminal liability. However, the child shall be subjected to an intervention program, which refers to a series of individualized treatment activities or programs designed to address issues that caused the child to commit an offense. These may include counseling, skills training, education, and other activities that are aimed to improve and enhance the child’s psychological, emotional and psychosocial well-being.
A child above 15 years but below 18 years of age shall likewise be exempt from criminal liability and be subjected to an intervention program, unless he/she has acted with discernment, in which case, such child shall be subjected to the appropriate proceedings in accordance with the law.
Exemption from criminal liability of the child does not include exemption from civil liability of parents and other persons exercising parental authority which shall be enforced in accordance with the provisions of Article 221 of the Family Code in relation to Article 101 of the Revised Penal Code and Rule 111 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure. If the act or omission of the child involves a quasi-delict, Article 2180 of the Civil Code shall apply.
DETERMINATION OF AGE
The child in conflict with the law shall enjoy the presumption of minority and shall enjoy all the rights of a child in conflict with the law until proven to be 18 years old or older at the time of the commission of the offense.
The age of the child shall be determined according to the following rules:
- (1) The best evidence to prove the age of a child is an original or certified true copy of the certificate of live birth;
- (2) In the absence of a certificate of live birth, similar authentic documents such as baptismal certificates and school records or any pertinent document that shows the date of birth of the child;
- (3) In the absence of the documents under paragraphs 1 and 2 of this Section due to loss, destruction or unavailability, the testimony of the child, the testimony of a member of the family related to the child by affinity or consanguinity who is qualified to testify on matters respecting pedigree such as the exact age or date of birth of the child pursuant to Section 40, Rule 130 of the Rules on Evidence, the testimonies of other persons, the physical appearance of the child and other relevant evidence, shall suffice. (a)
In case of doubt as to the age of the child, it shall be resolved in the child’s favor.
BURDEN OF PROOF OF AGE
Any person alleging the age of the child in conflict with the law has the burden of proving the age of such child.
If the age of the child is contested prior to the filing of the information in court, a case for determination of age under summary proceeding may be filed before a court which shall render its decision within 24 hours from receipt of the appropriate pleadings of all the parties.
In all cases involving a child, the court shall make a categorical finding as to the age of the child.
DETERMINATION OF DISCERNMENT
Discernment is preliminarily determined by a social worker and finally by the court. The determination of discernment shall take into account the ability of a child to understand the moral and psychological components of criminal responsibility and the consequences of the wrongful act; and whether a child can be held responsible for essentially antisocial behavior.
Diversion is conducted in various levels: (a) the barangay; or (b) police or law enforcement officers; or (c) local social welfare and development officer; or (d) Diversion Committee. [See Propriety of Diversion, the Diversion Program, Continuation of Case for Children in Conflict with the Law]
PROCEDURE FOR CHILDREN NOT EXEMPTED FROM CRIMINAL LIABILITY
A child 15 years and 1 day old or above, but below 18 years of age, at the time of the commission of the offense shall, at the sound discretion of the court and subject to its supervision, be released on recognizance to the care of the willing and responsible mother or father, or appropriate guardian or custodian, or, in their absence, the nearest relative.
However, if the prosecution determines that the child acted with discernment, the child shall be proceeded against in the following manner: accordance with Sections 24 to 27 or, (b) diversion [see Propriety of Diversion, the Diversion Program, Continuation of Case for Children in Conflict with the Law].
There are separate procedures for handling: (a) children exempted from criminal liability; (b) children exempted from criminal liability who commits serious crimes; and (c) children exempted from criminal liability who repeats the commission of an offense.
PROCEDURE FOR TAKING THE CHILD INTO CUSTODY
There are specific rules that must be followed from the moment a child is taken into custody. The law enforcement officer, who must properly identify himself, must inform the child of the reason for such custody and advise the child of his/her constitutional rights in a language or dialect understood by him/her. The officer must determine the age of the child and immediately (not later than 8 hours after apprehension) turn over custody of the child to the Social Welfare and Development Office or other accredited non-government organizations, and notify the child’s parents/guardians and Public Attorney’s Office of the child’s apprehension. [For the full procedure, refer to Procedure for Taking the Child into Custody]
RIGHTS OF A CHILD UNDER CUSTODY; VICTIMS
The rights of a child who has been taken into custody must be protected. These rights during custodial investigation include the right to privacy, particularly the exclusion of media. At the police station, to be immediately assisted by a lawyer and a social worker who shall make sure that the child is effectively informed of his/her rights, as far as the child’s maturity and discernment allow. [See Rights of a Child under Custody]
Victims of children under conflict with the law are likewise entitled to certain rights. [See Rights of Victims of Offenses Committed by Children in Conflict with the Law]
PROHIBITION OF LABELING
In the conduct of proceedings from initial contact with the child in conflict with the law to the final disposition of the case, there shall be no branding or labeling of the child as a young criminal, juvenile delinquent, prostitute, vagrant, or attaching to the child in any manner any derogatory description or name. Likewise, no discriminatory statements, conduct and practices shall be allowed, particularly with respect to the child’s social or economic status, physical or mental disability or ethnic origin.
DUTIES OF LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER DURING INITIAL INVESTIGATION
The law enforcement officer shall, in his/her investigation, determine where the case involving the child in conflict with the law should be referred. The taking of the statement of the child shall be conducted in the presence of the following:
- (1) child’s counsel of choice or in the absence thereof, a lawyer from the Public Attorney’s Office;
- (2) the child’s parents, guardian, or nearest relative, as the case may be; and
- (3) the local social welfare officer.
In the absence of the child’s parents, guardian, or nearest relative, and the local social welfare and development officer, the investigation shall be conducted in the presence of a representative of a non-government organization, religious group, or member of the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children.
DUTIES OF SOCIAL WORKER DURING INITIAL INVESTIGATION
The social worker shall conduct an initial assessment to determine the appropriate interventions and whether the child acted with discernment, using the discernment assessment tools developed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). The initial assessment shall be without prejudice to the preparation of a more comprehensive study report. The local social worker shall do either of the following:
- (A) Apply the proper procedure if the child is 15 years old or below (see Procedure for Handling Children Exempted from Criminal Liability, or Procedure for handling a child exempted from criminal liability who commits serious crimes, or Procedure for handling a child exempted from criminal liability who repeats commission of offense) or above 15 but below 18 years old, who acted without discernment (see Procedure for handling children exempted from criminal liability); and
- (B) If the child is above 15 years old but below 18 and who acted with discernment, proceed to diversion. [See Propriety of Diversion, the Diversion Program, Continuation of Case for Children in Conflict with the Law]
CONDUCT OF PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION
A criminal action may be instituted against a child in conflict with the law by filing a complaint with the public prosecutor. Preliminary investigation shall be conducted under certain instances and compliance with certain requirements. Diversion agreements may be entered into during preliminary investigation. No information may be filed in certain cases, even with the finding of probable cause by the investigating prosecutor. [See Conduct of Preliminary Investigation affecting Children in Conflict with the Law]
TRIAL; PROMULGATION AND SUSPENSION OF SENTENCE
There are multiple steps, including diversion proceedings, before a case reaches the court for trial proper. Upon the filing of a criminal Information in court, the proper diversion proceedings shall be conducted by the Diversion Committee when the imposable penalty does not exceed 12 years. Trial commences upon the recommendation by the Diversion Committee, and approval by the court after hearing, that further court proceedings shall proceed. [See Conduct of Trial for Children in Conflict with the Law]
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. However, instead of executing the judgment of conviction, shall place the child in conflict with the law under suspended sentence, without need of application. [See Automatic Suspension of Sentence and Disposition Orders upon Conviction of Children in Conflict with the Law]
CONFIDENTIALITY OF PROCEEDINGS AND RECORD; SEALING OF 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 court may order the sealing of the records of the case. Upon entry of the order, the case shall be treated as if it never occurred. [See Conduct of Trial for Children in Conflict with the Law]
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.
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