Child rights activists ask Congress not to lower age of criminal responsibility

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House of Representatives. RYAN LEAGOGO/INQUIRER.net

OZAMIZ CITY, Philippines — Child protection advocates are making a last ditch call on lawmakers to preserve the country’s gains in advancing children’s rights by opposing moves to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility.

“We appeal to our Congressmen and Senators not to undo the positive achievement that our country has reached in protecting the rights of children in conflict with the law,” said Roldan Gonzales, convenor of the national coordinating group of the Kalibutan sa Katawhan Network (Kalitawhan).

Kalitawhan groups 29 civil society groups in the country that undertakes, among others, children’s rights education and advocacy.

The bicameral conference committee to reconcile the provisions of Senate Bill No. 3324 and House Bill No. 6052 convenes Monday, according to the Senate calendar.

HB 6052 was passed on third and final reading June last year while SB 3324 was passed last month. Both measures sought to amend Republic Act No. 9344 known as the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, which was crafted in 2006.

HB 6052 seeks to lower the minimum age for criminal responsibility for minors who acted with discernment from the current 15 years old to 12 years old. However, SB 3324 seeks to keep it at 15 years old.

Even as the measures differ in the aspect of age, both sought to strengthen the “intervention program” for minor offenders.

While exempting 15-year-olds and younger from criminal liability, the Senate version, however, stipulates that they will have to face civil liabilities arising from their actions. Such liability for restitution, reparation and indemnification for consequential damages will be borne by their parents or guardians exercising parental authority over teenage offenders.

Gonzales said that lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility from the current standard would be a “human rights setback” for the country.

Gonzales noted that RA 9344 “made the Philippines a pioneer in the Asian region in upholding international child rights standards, like the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, in the administration of juvenile justice.”

RA 9344 raised the minimum age of criminal responsibility from nine years old to 15 years old, a move lauded by the UN Committee of the Rights of the Child in its October 2009 concluding observations on the Philippines.

In an earlier letter sent to legislators, Kalitawhan noted that present moves to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility came amid the challenge of making RA 9344 work.

It cited the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child concluding observations in 2009 outlining, among others, that “children in conflict with the law do not effectively have legal safeguards and access to medical care, and there is a limited use of diversion.”

It also noted “allegations of the widespread practice of pre-trial detention of children; the lack of specialised courts for children; and the practice of detaining children along with adults in overcrowded facilities mired in poor conditions.”

“Since the mandated budget allocation for the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council (JJWC) and local programmes has not been realized, much of these mentioned conditions remain until now,” Kalitawhan stressed.

“Lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility will only increase the number of children undergoing criminal proceedings under conditions that violate their rights,” Kalitawhan added.

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of INQUIRER.net. We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • http://twitter.com/durgijohn John Atm

    When they are ready for adult crime they are ready to be tried as adults!  Yes I agree for protecting their rights but then again we need to protect the rights of their victims as well. Dont baby them else they bite you the big time.

  • Borogol

    malaki laki na ata investments nila para sa isang batallion ng batang hamog, kaya gusto nila wag babaan….

    sana paki check yung along imelda avenue.. lalo na yung sa overpass sa tapat ng highschool… naku, ang daming gusgusin na bata na ginagamit sa pamamalimos…

  • tata_boy

    ano ang gagawin ninyo sa mga kinse anyos na pumapatay at nangagahasa?

  • tolits63

    mga sutil mga ito,,sana mapatay isa sa mga kamag anak ninyo ng mga batang kriminal..

  • Hunyo 15

    For every right entitlement you afford a youthful offender in conflict with the law , there is another one violated. There should be no issue on the lowering the age of discernment in determining criminal culpability since intellligence to know the implications of one’s act is defintely present on a fifteen(15) year old.Our criminal jurisprudence never had issues under the old law of totally exempting children under nine (9) years of age from criminal liability but required proof for such below twelve(12) years of age. What more for the proposed amendment lowering criminal culpability from fifteen(15) to twelve(12) years old? The media for education has vastly improved learning during the last decade. We now have seven(7) year olds who are computer literate and senior citizens catching up with this trend.

  • $5699914

    Kaliwtahan…correct, it is ‘kalituhan’ on your part….

  • bagombong

    Puro kayo salungat sa mga gagawin batas, kung ayaw niyong ibaba, aba eh, magpakalat kayo ng mga tauhan sa kalsada at hindi yun naghihintay lang ng tawag  reklamo para sa mga bago kayo kumilos, magpatrol kayo sa mga lansangan at tignan nyo ang mga ginagawa ng mga batang ipinagtatanggol nyo bago kayo magreklamo.

  • XY ZEE

    Ano, sorry na lang?
    Paano tutuwid iyan kung di tuturuan ng leksyon?
    “Spare the rod, spoil the child” ika nga.

  • kalikasanipagtanggol

    Buti na lang hindi ginagamit ang mga juvenile criminals na i-liquidate ang mga tiwaling politiko, tiwaling sundalo at pulis at tiwaling tao! dahil kung nagkataon ay malinis na sana ang bansa ng mga tiwali!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/MJFXCRSCXRWPLL42QQKSINC3AQ Mamerto

    What about the rights of the victims..?

    Remember (or rather…, BE AWARE) …, that children today, between the ages of 10~15 arenot as innocent as they were 30~50 years ago.

    Of course, if a law is passed, and the ages lowered re criminal culpability…, these young persons will not be incarcerated together with seasoned and highly dangerous criminals.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/AIYSIJJOL4JNRLHXVTGUH3NYHM The Overlord

    Ikulong ang mga batang hamog na yan! Akala nyo at 12-15 years old walang pa yang muwang sa ginagawa nila? They’re products of poverty! Because their parents were not able to guide them properly because, most likely, andami nilang anak! Buti nga naipasa pa yang RH law na yan eh. Next should be this one. Discipline those squatter kids!

  • Padre Damaso

    We have to do this, times have changed. If this kids have criminal minds at a young age already then we should be more concerned for the victims and future victims.

  • catalansbarce

    Ang anak ng aming kapitbahay 12years old babae ginahasa ng kapitbahay din 14years old
    lalaki. Kinulong ang 14years old rapist.., ini order ng Judge during the hearing na pakawalan
    ang 14years old rapist dahil underage pa.., sa galit ng ama ng babae .., binatukan ang
    rapist.. at that instance.., ang ama ng babae kinulong sa selda.., meaning.,
     rapist check OUT,., father of the victim check IN sa kulongan. Napaka UNFAIR sa batas natin.
    Narinig ko, sa USA wala daw age limit sa kulongan kahit gaano ka bata ang Kriminal at
    wala daw UN nakikialam doon. Kung totoo yan, sana ganyan din ang batas ipatupad dito sa atin.

  • AlexanderAmproz

    No need to have one more spot on the suffering Philippines flag !

    Have a look what decent countries like Holland are doing in handling such cases. 
    Soon Miriam Santiago will be in den Hague, easy for her to learn about.

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