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‘Criminal age’ set at 12, not 9

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The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved on second reading a bill lowering the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12.

Oriental Mindoro Rep. Doy Leachon, chairman of the House committee on justice, said House leaders came up with a consensus to approve the substitute bill lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 12 instead of 9 as contained in the committee-approved version of the bill.

“The consensus is to set the age of criminal responsibility to 12,” Leachon said, acknowledging at a news conference that most of his colleagues felt that 9 “was too young.”

READ: House bill punishes parents for their children’s offenses

The approved House Bill 8858, which aims to amend the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, provides a maximum six months imprisonment as the penalty against parents of the children in conflict with the law who refuse to undergo the mandatory intervention program.

Children in conflict with the law will not be detained but placed in Bahay Pag-Asa, where they will undergo a “reformation” program supervised by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

“First, we are not putting these children in jail, but in reformative institutions to correct their ways and bring them back to the community. And second, they are not branded as criminals but children in conflict with law,” Leachon said.

Leachon said the maximum penalty for those exploiting the children to commit criminal offenses are the following: reclusion temporal (12 to 20 years) if the crime is punishable by less than six years, and life imprisonment, if the crime is punishable by more than six years.

READ: Criminal liability bill draws flak

He said the parents of the children who are in conflict with the law will be detained for a minimum 30 days and maximum of six months if they do not undergo an intervention program that might include parenting seminars and counseling supervised by local government units.

If children are convicted, Leachon said they will be detained at an agricultural camp under the supervision of the Bureau of Corrections and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

Leachon said children convicted will not be detained or mixed with adult inmates.

The Palace on Wednesday slammed the critics for opposing legislation aimed at lowering the age of criminal responsibility.

“They simply have not read the provisions of the bill hence their opposition is based either on blissful ignorance or pretended misinformation,” Panelo said in a statement.

“They are either unaware or ignore the reality that criminals have become smart as to use the present law in exploiting the children to assist them in committing their crimes,” he added.

He said the Palace was confident that Congress would ensure that due consideration would be given to protecting the rights of children.

President Rodrigo has supported lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility from the 15 that is specified in the current law.

READ: Bill lowering age of criminal liability opposed

Meanwhile, Senator Panfilo Lacson said the national government must step in to provide funding for facilities to rehabilitate child offenders since many local government units or LGUs are unable to do so.

While the present Juvenile Justice Act (R.A. 10630) provides for funding for the “Bahay Pag-asa” facilities, many LGUs lack the resources to operate them, Lacson said.

“There are provinces that may not be able to build, much less maintain, such facilities. Funding for this is no joke. It may run to tens if not hundreds of millions of pesos,” he said. “It should be the national government that provides the budget for this, instead of the LGU.”

Lacson said such funding could be taken up in the bicameral conference committee working on the passage of the P3.7 trillion national budget for 2019. With Macon Ramos-Araneta


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