UNTV News and Rescue
Several senators aired their sides on the proposed measure that seeks to amend the existing Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act and lower the age of criminal responsibility from the current 15 years old.
For some senators, lowering age of criminal liability can be possible but not as low as 9 years old like that which the House of Representatives recently passed.
“Nine, I think, is too tender. I’m more leaning now to 12 (years old). Ang i-re-rekomenda siguro ay 12 (years old). Pero after about 3 years (lower), we’ll look it up and then we increase it to 15 and eventually to 18,” argued Senate Committee on Justice Chair Senator Richard Gordon.
The Justice Committee heard on Tuesday (January 22) the versions of the bill filed by Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon lowering the age of criminal liability.
Sotto on his Twitter post said 12 years old is the common threshold adopted in many countries worldwide.
Senator Bam Aquino, meanwhile, said he is confident that the Lower House version of the measure is likely to be rejected by the Senate.
He calls the Lower House’s proposed age of nine as cruelty against children.
“Nagiging cruel lang po tayo sa ating mga kabataan, sa ating mga anak. Saan ka nakakita ng isang lipunan na ang 9 year-old, gustong ikulong gaya ng isang 25 o 30 years old?” he asked.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, for her part, previously argued that instead of going after children, the government should be focusing on incarcerating the drug lords who are exploiting the minors to commit criminal acts.
She maintains that the minimum age should be retained to 15 years old.
“Ang policy recommendation o direction ng UN para sa lahat ng member states tulad natin ay kung nasa 15 (years old) na huwag nang bumaba pa,” she said.
Under the existing law, children age 15 years old and below “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 pursuant to Section 20 of this Act.”
The law added that: “The exemption from criminal liability herein established does not include exemption from civil liability, which shall be enforced in accordance with existing laws.”
But the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council calls for restoration of juvenile rehabilitation centers or Bahay Pagasa because of the unfavorable condition of minors currently confined there.
“Some of the Bahay Pag-asa we saw, mas malala pa po siya sa kulungan. Wala silang programs, wala silang beds, ang mga bata duon, they are just being told to be quiet the whole day,” lamented Atty. Tricia Oco, the group’s executive director. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Joan Nano)