Bill lowering criminal liability age to ‘save’ kids: PCOO exec

Bill lowering criminal liability age to ‘save’ kids: PCOO exec
By Christine Cudis

MANILA (Philippines News Agency) — Children in conflict with the law will receive the attention and care they need once House of Representatives Bill No. 8858 is enacted into law, an official of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) said Friday.

In a press briefing at the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), Assistant Secretary Ana Marie Rafael said the bill, which seeks to lower the age of criminal liability to 12 years old, seeks to offer reformation to minors who commit crimes.

“Ang batang ito kahit na gumawa sya ng karumal-dumal na krimen, tulad ng parricide, homicide, kidnapping, hindi po sya mabibilanggo. Dadalhin po sya sa Bahay Pag-asa (A child, even if he/she commits a heinous crime, such as parricide, homicide, kidnapping, will not go to jail but will be sent to Bahay Pag-asa),” she said.

Bahay Pag-asa centers are child-caring institutions built to offer rehabilitation and intervention to children in conflict with the law.

Under the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, these facilities are established and run by local government units.

“Wala po siyang (The child will not have) social or criminal liability unless the child acted in discernment,” she said.

Rafael said that under the bill, a case may be filed against the child but he/she will be directed to the Bahay Pag-asa for reformation.

After this procedure, there are three possible scenarios that the child who committed a crime may undergo:

(1) By the time the child comes of legal age, the court can discharge him/her after complying with the orders of the legal body;

(2) Judgment may be executed if the legal officer who attends to the child reports that he/she did not change; or

(3) Judgment could be extended if the situation permits.

Rafael, however, said these scenarios may change once amendments to the bill are introduced.

The necessity to impose the amendment comes from the concerning number of minors who commit crimes only to get away with them and return to their old habits.

Data from PDEA show that there were 460,000 crime incidents in 2018, of which 11,321 were committed by minors.

“What will we do with the 11,321 minors? We need to save them. Wala pong mangyayari sa kabataan kapag ganito dahil umuulit lang din sila. Lolokohin sila at dahil bata, maloloko pa rin sila na gumawa ng parehas na krimen (Nothing will happen to the children if we do not change the way things are. They will be fooled by criminals, and because they are just kids, they will be fooled again),” Rafael said.

Since the bill allows parents to exercise discipline over the concerned child, she added that they would also undergo the training needed to teach their offspring effectively.

House Bill 8858, seeks to amend Republic Act (RA) No. 9344, or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, which currently provides that children aged 15 years old and above but below 18 years old are exempt from criminal liability.

The bill provides that children aged 12 years old and above, but below 18 years old, are exempt from social liability, unless the child acted with discernment.

One of the key amendments to RA 9344 that is being pushed is the provision requiring children above 12 years old to 15 years old who commit serious crimes, such as murder, homicide, kidnapping, arson and offenses punishable under the Comprehensive Drugs Act of 2002, be placed in a Bahay Pag-asa. (PNA)

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