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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Duterte: No jail for children, yes for parents

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President Rodrigo Duterte is in favor of making parents accountable for the criminal acts of their children, the Palace said on Thursday as the debate continued over efforts to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility.

Duterte: No jail for children, yes for parents
MINORS’ PROTEST. Members of Salinlahi Alliance for Children, a national alliance of child rights and welfare institutions, stage at the Senate gate a protest rally as they oppose the proposal to lower the minimum age of children in conflict with the law from 15 years old to 12 while the Justice and Rights Committee discusses the issue. Lino Santos

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said Congress can introduce new provisions to a proposed bill solely to punish “neglectful parents” of children who have committed crimes.

“I think there should be some kind of punishment to the parents also if they are neglectful either deliberately or recklessly,” he added.

He said, however, that it was up to Congress to either accept or reject the suggestion.

“The President is [just] expressing an idea… If they are open to that, then they can do something about it,” he said.

Panelo again assured the public that children in conflict with the law would not be imprisoned but will instead undergo rehabilitation.

“You cannot put these minors to jail. You have to correct them, rehabilitate them. They can become more hardened if you jail them with hardened criminals,” he said.

The House of Representatives approved on second reading a bill seeking to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12, triggering outrage among human rights groups and some senators.

“I think the opposition is based on the incarceration of children. Not many know this, in the previous law, the age of criminal liability was 9 years old for decades, but nobody really complained,” Panelo said.

“It was 9 years old before. But even under the previous law, there was no incarceration. It’s rehabilitation,” he said.

He added that the government is willing to allocate more funds for youth care facilities to rehabilitate children who have committed crimes.

“If it’s a matter of funding, then let’s put in some funds or more funds,” Panelo said.

Duterte said he was “comfortable” with lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 12.

Duterte noted that parents should also be aware of their children’s criminal accountability.

“As early as that age, they should already be reminded because they will be ultimately responsible,” he said.

“Any violation of law committed by children, that shows that parents lack supervision and vigilance. They will face charges,” he added.

He also said children would not go to jail.

“They will not really be imprisoned. They will only go to social workers to listen to lectures,” he said.

Senator Richard Gordon, meanwhile, said there was no global consensus on the age at which children should be held criminally responsible.

In some countries, it is even lower than 12, he said, citing the United Kingdom (8 years old) and Singapore (7 years old).

Gordon supports lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility from the current 15 under the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 to 12.

In Senate hearings, however, Dr. Liane Alampay of the Psychological Association of the Philippines said a 12-year-old is more vulnerable and less mature than a 15-year-old.

She warned that lowering the age of criminal responsibility would just magnify the problems involving the youth.

“This would not solve the problems concerning our youth. Instead, the government should address the gaps like the lack of resources, political will, and knowledge,” she said.

She also said stricter implementation of the existing law was crucial.

Testifying at the same hearing, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said local government units would be required to set up their respective Bahay Pag-asa or halfway houses for children in conflict with the law.

“We can direct the LGUs to construct their Bahay Pag-asa. We would require the local government units starting with provinces, we have 81 provinces and 141 high urbanized cities,” Año said.

In the House, Rep. Juliette Uy of Misamis Oriental said the Department of Social Welfare and Development would need more funds to build and maintain adequate facilities to deal with children in conflict with the law.

“Doable on a nationwide scale are provincial juvenile care facilities. Provinces with high numbers of youth offenders can be prioritized. I propose this because in many places these kind of facilities are poor to nonexistent,” Uy said.

Meanwhile, Save the Children Philippines said only 4 percent of LGUs have appointed licensed social workers.

Wilma Banaga, child protection advisor of Save the Children Philippines, said as of September 2017, she said only 367 LGUs have integrated the Comprehensive Local Juvenile Intervention Program in their local development, plans, and annual investment plans.

“Clearly, many LGUs have not yet done their part in fully implementing the provisions of the law,” Banaga said.


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