By Camille A. Aguinaldo, Reporter
SENATE President Vicente C. Sotto III has filed a bill seeking to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 years old to above 12 years old.
Filed on Monday, Senate Bill No. 2026 amends Republic Act No. 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 to prevent criminal syndicates from exploiting the law by using minors in committing crimes.
Mr. Sotto said the present minimum age, 15, was too high, based on international standards. Citing a study conducted by the Child Rights International Network (CRIN), he said the average minimum age of criminal responsibility in Asia and Africa is 11 years old while the United States and Europen is set at 13.
“Due to continuing challenge in the implementation of RA 9344, as amended, the aforesaid law must be further amended to lower the minimum age of criminal liability in order to adapt (to) changing times,” the Senate leader said in his explanatory note.
“This bill will finally give clarity to the true intention of the law. The amendment to the law will institutionalize the criminal liability of teenagers who committed serious criminal offense,” he added.
Under the proposed measure, a child below 18 years of age but above 12 at the time of the commission of the crime would be held criminally liable and subjected to the appropriate proceedings, unless proven that he or she acted without discernment.
If the child acted without discernment, he or she would be exempted from criminal liability and will be subjected to the appropriate intervention program under the law.
For serious crimes, such as parricide, murder, infanticide, kidnapping, and homicide, committed by the child between nine to 12 years old, he or she will be deemed a neglected child under Presidential Decree No. 603 or the Child and Youth Welfare Code.
The child will also be placed in a special facility within the youth care facility or the “Bahay Pag-asa” as managed by the local government units or the nongovernment organizations (NGOs) monitored by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
An additional funding of P20 million will be made available in the construction of “Bahay Pag-asa” rehabilitation centers in provinces or cities.
In an interview with reporters, Mr. Sotto he will ask President Rodrigo R. Duterte to certify the bill as urgent. In 2017, the President called on Congress to lower the age of criminal liability in order to curb criminality in the country.
“The soonest possible time that I will talk to him, I will tell him about it and I will ask him to certify it as an urgent bill….I am confident and optimistic that majority of our members in the Senate will support it,” Mr. Sotto said.