By Vince Angelo C. Ferreras
THE Philippine National Police (PNP) has expressed support for Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III’s proposal to lower the age of criminal liability from 15 years old to 13 years old.
“We are supporting that proposal of the good senator. We are just getting inputs from different regions and also from legal service,” PNP chief Director General Oscar D. Albayalde said in a press briefing at the PNP National Headquarters on Monday, Oct. 1.
Mr. Sotto filed Senate Bill 2026 which aims to amend Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, exempting children aged 15 and below from criminal liability.
“Remember, sa napakaraming foreign countries wala nga silang limit eh. In some other countries, there’s even six years old, seven years old, or 10 years old,” Mr. Albayalde said. (Remember, in so many foreign countries, there’s really no limit. Some, it’s six years old, seven years old, or 10 yaers old.)
According to a study by Child’s Right International, the average age of criminal responsibility in Africa and Asia is 11 years old.
Mr.Albayalde said police officials were deployed in some areas to lessen the presence of streetchildren who were sometimes involved in minor crimes.
Under the current law, the PNP sends minors to the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
For its part, the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF) opposed Mr. Sotto’s proposal and suggested the government should improve the implementation of the existing juvenile law.
“To brand children as criminals removes the responsibility and accountability from adults who have failed them. Children in conflict with the law are victims of circumstance, mostly because of poverty and because they are not able to access a caring, nurturing and protective environment,” UNICEF stated.
The organization added that lowering the age of criminal liability would only encourage syndicates to “use and abuse even younger children to commit their wrongdoings.”