Criminal Responsibility Age From 15 to 9 Years Old, OK-ed by House Panel

Currently, according to Republic Act (R.A. 9344) or more commonly known as the Juvenile Justice Law of 2006 says that “the minimum age of criminal liability at 15 years old.” This means that children who are between 15 to 18 years old can be detained in youth centers and go through rehabilitation programs. However, on Monday, the 21st of January 2019, the House Committee approved the bill which lowers the age of criminal responsibility from the minimum of 15 years old to just nine (9) years old.

After a meeting, the justice panel OK-ed the motion of Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro to OK the substitute bill to House Bill(s) 935, 2, 1609, 505, 3973, and 2009. These bills all seek to lower the age of criminal responsibility.

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What does the substitute bill say?

Overall, the bill says that a child who is nine years old or younger at the time of the commission or when the offense took place would be exempted from the liability of crime. On the other hand, children who are above nine years old but under the legal age of eighteen (18) would be exempted from criminal liability unless the minor made acts with discernment.

Salvador Leachon, House Panel Chair Oriental Mindoro Representative said that this measure is not made to put children in jail; this act is to reform them. In addition to that, they will not be branded as criminals at the time but will be known as children who are in conflict with the law.

He said this in his opening speech and he explained that his committee is considering the measures as a legislation.

The committee recognizes that the youth is an integral part nation-building and the state must ensure and preserve their overall well-being. it is but the time to pass this bill to protect young children from being used by ruthless and unscrupulous criminal syndicates to evade prosecution and punishment.”

Leachon emphasizes that there has been a drastic increase in the number of syndicates that use minors to perform criminal acts. This, in turn, is very alarming considering the fact that our nation does not regard to this as a serious issue.

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The current Vice President Leni Robredo, along with other Child Rights groups are not agreeing with the approval of the specific measure.

They are saying that children who have conflicts with the law should not be punished. Instead, they are children who needs help and guidance. 

Sa ating mga kasamahan na mambabatas, iyong lowering the age of criminal liability, maawa naman po tayo sa ating mga kabataan. Imbes na parusahan natin sila, tulungan natin – tulungan natin na makapagbagong buhay.”

In addition to that, UNICEF Philippines representative Lotta Sylwander, said that lowering the age of criminal responsibility is an act that goes against the letter and spirit of child rights, last Friday, the 18th of January 2019.

Other than this substitute bill, are there other bills that aim to lower the age of criminal liability?

As mentioned earlier, there are other bills that seek to lower the age of criminal responsibility. To cite a concrete example, there is a bill at the Senate that looks to lower the age of criminal responsibility to 13 years old in the middle of the crimes that are being committed by minors.

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Who authored this new bill?

Senate President Vicente Sotto III was the author of the bill. As per him, decreasing the age of criminal responsibility is an actual response to the “call of times.” More so, he stressed that minors who are caught disobeying the rule or children who gets caught doing crimes will not be sent to jail instead, they will be rehabilitated.

The status of the bill is now at the committee level. A scheduled hearing is set on Tuesday at the Senate. By then, we will be aware of what the status is of the plan of high offices.

Leachon, who is one of those pushing the bill to be effective, is hoping that this specific bill is going to be signed into law before the end of the 17th Congress in June of this year.

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What do you think about this act? Do you think that it is rightful for children to have that kind of punishment? Or is it just right to somehow lessen the cases of syndicate movement and crimes committed by the minor?

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