Silver Lining

Written by Atty. Rommel Alim Abitria


Many are so frustrated with the justice system. 

This frustration is even clearer now more than ever. This frustration towards the system is materialized in many ways today: It can be clearly heard in the uproar agreement every time this administration sings its “harsher punishment” rhetoric; it can be felt with chilling effect in the apathy of the community amidst the rising death toll of alleged “drug pushers”; it can be clearly seen in the likes and approving comments in social media every time an alleged criminal is eliminated even without due process of law. The community and the people, clamor for a justice system that will truly give them what is due to them.

Amidst these high levels of frustration over the justice system, there are hard-working Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC) members in the barangays who try work and find a way to deliver justice to stakeholders to their satisfaction.  These BCPC members apply restorative justice to provide opportunities for the offender (the CICL), the victim and the community to have an encounter in order to resolve the issues pertaining to the commission of the offense.

According to Tony Marshall, restorative justice “is a process whereby all parties with a stake in specific offense come together to resolve collectively how to deal with the aftermath of the offense and its implications for the future.”  The concept of restorative justice, according to many scholars, was born out of the community’s longing for healing—a response to the “injustice” system. In the Philippines, restorative justice found its way to the legal system through the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act.  The idea is before bringing the offender (in the case of the JJWA, the Child in Conflict with the Law) to the formal courts in order to determine his/her liability and punishment, the stakeholders, the offender, the victim and the community tries to talk about the offense first for the purpose of resolving its effects and resolving how to deal with the effects eventually.

The concept is easy to understand but is certainly difficult to practice.  That is why those who wish to apply the concept, have to undergo a rigorous training on restorative justice.  After pulling through the rigors of HLAF trainings, these BCPC members had been working day in and day out to minimize the frustrations of victims and offenders alike by conducting restorative justice conferencing. 

And in most cases, all of the parties are satisfied with the outcome of the encounter.  Despite the damages not being paid immediately, victims are usually satisfied with the process because they are assured that the child-offender will be provided with proper programs in order to address the causes of his/her offending.  Victims also appreciate that BCPC members understand their needs and also neutrally works for their benefit.  CICL and their families are also satisfied because during the conferencing, the community and other stakeholders promise to assist the child and their families to be accountable for their offense.  The CICLs are given an opportunity to be rehabilitated and are guaranteed to be accepted back in the community despite their shortcomings.  The community is also satisfied with the outcome because it ultimately feels that children within their community are changing for the better as proven by the going down of the number of incidence of juvenile delinquency. 

While many are complaining about the shortcomings of the justice system, it is proper to recognize those in the community who are silently working to improve the dispensation of justice to the best of their abilities. 

Now, they are using restorative justice in the context of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act—to resolve the effects of the offenses committed by children.  But it is not far-fetched that in the near future, in order to reduce the frustration of the community over the justice system, restorative justice will be find its way in the criminal justice system and be applied to resolve the effects of offenses committed by adults. 

Amidst these frustrations and these messes in the criminal justice system today, this is the silver lining.