MANILA — Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Thursday said the bill lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility will undergo tight scrutiny and intensive debates in the upper chamber.
In a statement, Sotto cited the need to offer “timely solutions” amid the number of crimes being committed by minors.
“The prevailing juvenile justice law did not result in bringing down the number of crimes committed by minors, many of which were violent in nature. This is the sad reality and one that we cannot afford to just accept or turn a blind eye to,” Sotto said.
“Just like any other bill in the Senate, this proposal will be debated, scrutinized and the views of both those against and in favor will be taken into consideration,” he added.
Sotto stressed that children in conflict with the law will not be brought to prison facilities but youth care facilities, ensuring that there would be enough funding for the construction and maintenance of these halfway homes or “Bahay Pag-asa” centers.
“The objective is not to incarcerate children, but to place them in the Bahay Pag-Asa facilities across the country where they would be rehabilitated and given a chance to enjoy normal lives. Part of the bill is to upgrade these facilities which the current law failed to address,” he said.
The Senate justice panel is set to conduct its second hearing on Friday on the two measures seeking to lower the age of criminality from the current 15 years old to 12 years old.
Sotto’s Senate Bill 2026 seeks to amend certain provisions of Republic Act 9344 of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 so that 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/she acted without discernment.
In cases where it is proven that a child acted without discernment, he/she would be exempted from criminal liability and shall be subjected to the appropriate intervention program under the law.
Under the bill, for serious crimes such as parricide, murder, infanticide, kidnapping and homicide, if the children who committed these are above nine years old up to 12 years old, they shall be deemed neglected children under Presidential Decree 603 or the Child and Youth Welfare Code, as amended and shall be placed in a special facility within the youth care faculty or Bahay Pag-asa. (PNA)