As a clearer but grimmer picture emerges on the extent of the damage wrought by Typhoon Odette, Senator and presidential aspirant Panfilo “Ping” Lacson directed various teams from his Partido Reporma, campaign volunteers, and even his own Senate staff to focus on helping the victims of the storm.
Since Saturday, December 18, simultaneous relief efforts have been undertaken by these teams in Cebu, Leyte and Siargao with additional volunteers joining to help in Southern Leyte, Negros Island, and Palawan.
Through its alliance with LPGMA Party-List, Partido Reporma will also dispatch a Landing Craft Tanker (LCT) to ferry heavy equipment, housing materials, food, and water to various affected areas in Visayas and Mindanao in the next few days.
Lacson, in a recent out-of-town engagement, called for a moment of silence in for those who perished in the typhoon, which as of Monday has reached 375 persons, according to the Philippine National Police.
The three-term senator’s presidential run is anchored on his 50 years of experience as a soldier, a policeman, a legislator and a rehab czar, in the hope of offering the most effective solutions to the country’s myriad problems, which include solving the coronavirus pandemic, the looming huge national debt, poverty and loss of livelihoods, and other issues.
Meanwhile, the parents of children who are knowingly committing criminal offenses must also be held accountable under the law, said the Partido Reporma standard-bearer.
Lacson cited a precedent involving a teenager charged with multiple crimes in the United States.
He was referring to the case of 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley, who is being tried as an adult by a court in Michigan for allegedly committing 24 crimes, including murder, attempted murder and terrorism, according to a report published by Time magazine.
Crumbley is being prosecuted as the primary suspect for the latest school shooting incident in the US. He reportedly killed four students and injured seven at the Oxford High School in Oakland County using a semi-automatic gun that was purchased legally by his father.
Prosecutors likewise charged his parents with four counts of involuntary manslaughter on the belief that their negligence contributed to the violent situation, which could put them in prison for 15 years upon conviction, according to reports.
“I think we should revisit that law because there are defects. The age of discernment is too broad. We should constrict the definition a little bit,” the veteran lawmaker said.
He recommended that perhaps the parents of children in conflict with the law must also be held liable, if it can be proven beyond reasonable doubt there was negligence on their part, which contributed to the criminal behavior of the child.
“I think a shared responsibility must be administered to the parents. In America, have you heard about that minor who shot several people to death? His parents were charged with involuntary manslaughter,” he said.
He issued the statement following a discussion on the loopholes of the Comprehensive Juvenile Justice and Welfare System in the country at the ‘Tumindig’ Youth Empowerment forum with officers from the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) held last Friday (December 17) in Baguio City.
A youth leader expressed concern over the apparent inadequacy of our laws related to juvenile justice as the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) they said was unable to reform wayward minors who are turning to a life of crime.
Lacson said he is aware of these issues and has advocated in the past to revisit Republic Act No. 9344, also known as the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, to address some of its defects particularly in determining the “age of discernment” of children in conflict with the law.
“I think we need to revisit the law because it already went through what we call the test of time and there were issues, problems encountered. Like you said, someone committed a crime, but since the law covers that the suspect be taken into the custody of DSWD, the offender is released eventually,” said Lacson.
Amendments to the aforesaid law were already made under Republic Act 10630, which was enacted during the third regular session of the 15th Congress. It transferred the Juvenile Justice Welfare Council from the purview of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to the DSWD.
In 2019, however, the application of Juvenile Justice Law sparked public outrage when members of the House of Representatives approved an amendment to lower the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12 years old against the backdrop of the government’s ‘war on drugs.’
Lacson at the time supported the measure but only up to a certain extent as he found earlier proposals to put nine-year-old suspects in prison too harsh. Nevertheless, he maintained that the law needs to be updated to resolve perennial public concerns over juvenile delinquency.