Libel to be decriminalized, age of liability lowered
Lowering the age of discernment became a thorny issue in discussions of the proposed law that would replace the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines (RPC) that was enacted way back in 1932.
House Bill 2300 or the Philippine Code of Crimes (PCC) Book 1, proposes to replace the “outdated” RPC. One of the key amendments to the RPC is the lowering of the minimum age of criminal liability from 15 to 13-years-old.
Cebu-based lawyers, prosecutors and judges who were present in yesterday’s public hearing preferred to adjust the criminally-liable age to 13 years old while doctors want to maintain it at 15 as pegged under the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act (RA 9344), said Iloilo 5th District Rep. Niel Tupas Jr.
At present, minors who are 15-years-old and below are exempted from criminal liability. The law presumes them to lack the discernment to know the difference between right or wrong.
Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III said children who are exempt from criminal charges are used by drug syndicates to commit crimes for their benefit.
“I think it is high time to repeal the RPC, because speaking as a lawyer, the RPC is a 1932 law. That’s very old with a lot of obsolete provisions. Some are not applicable anymore,” Davide said.
“There are a lot of new crimes now such as cyberpornography, human trafficking, this is very good and timely,” he added.
Originally, the RPC mandates the minimum age of criminal liability to 9-years-old. But Republic Act 9344 enacted in 2005 raised the minimum age of criminal liability to 15-years-old. Critics of this law say that criminal syndicates have abused this law by using younger children ages 15-years-old and below in their criminal operations.
Davide yesterday said he supports the proposed legislation because it will cater to new types of criminal acts which were not covered by the RPC.
Aside from the provision on the age of criminal liability, he said stakeholders also expressed their support on other proposals contained in the bill such as the decriminalization of libel. “There are two proposals to decriminalize libel. There’s also a proposal where libel is still a crime but it’s only going to impose fines,” he said.
The congressman who also heads the House of Representatives’ Committee on Justice also crafted House Bill 2032 or the Criminal Investigation Act of 2013. Tupas said in HB 2300’s explanatory note the RPC contains “antiquated provisions” and has largely been ineffective in addressing organized crimes, transnational crimes and the emerging cybercrime activities.
Tupas was in Cebu to conduct a public hearing on HB 2300. “It was a fruitful public hearing. We took up two measures and it received a lot of support from stakeholders here in Cebu,” said Tupas who paid a courtesy call on Davide yesterday. “This is the first public hearing and we chose Cebu because it’s a premier province and one of the most populous in the country,” he added.
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