BILL LOWERING AGE OF CRIMINALITY NEAR TO PASS
The House Committee on Justice is set to finalize the bill which seeks to lower the age of criminality from 15 to nine years old.
After months of deliberation and criticism, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Doy Leachon said his panel will be conducting a hearing for the passage of repealing Republic Act 9344, or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006.
RA 9344 currently exempts children 15 years old and younger from any criminal culpability.
“Recent news and reports show an alarming increase in the number of syndicates using minors to perpetrate criminal acts and it is but the time to pass this bill to protect our children from being used by ruthless and unscrupulous criminal syndicates to evade prosecution and punishment,” he said.
Leachon hoped that the bill might be passed into law before the end of the 17th Congress.
The chair said that the panel considers the bill as a priority matter of legislation, which is in line with the administration efforts to curb crime and violence as important catalyst to economic growth, enhancement of family values and national development.
In 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte called on Congress to lower the age of criminal liability “to ensure that the Filipino youth would accept responsibility for their actions and be subjected to government intervention programs.”
A similar bill has been filed at the Senate by Senate President Vicente Sotto III on the ground that criminal syndicates exploit the provisions of the law by using minors in the commission of crimes.
However, the bill filed by Sotto, the Senate Bill 2026 seeks to lower the criminal responsibility to 13 only—citing “to adapt to [the] changing times.”
Sotto cited the study by the Child Rights International Network which showed that the average minimum age of criminal responsibility in Asia and Africa is 11. In United States and Europe, the criminality is 13 years of age.
The Philippine National Police has aired its support for the bill lowering the age of criminality, citing the presence of juvenile delinquents who have been deliberately committing grave criminal offenses due to their age and the law that exempts them to be jailed or prosecuted.