President Aquino has signed into law a measure delineating the treatment of minors involved in crimes.
Aquino signed Republic Act No. 10630, “An Act Strengthening the Juvenile Justice System in the Philippines, Amending for the Purpose Republic Act No. 9344, otherwise known as The Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006.”
“There have been some changes in the composition of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council but, for the most part, the minimum age of criminal responsibility stands at 15 years of age,” said deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte in a briefing at Malacañang.
Aquino signed the new law on Oct. 3 but this was made public only Tuesday.
The old law, RA 9344, mandated authorities to commit youth offenders to a “Youth Detention Center” managed by accredited local government units (LGUs) and nongovernment organizations (NGOs).
The new law, RA 10630, renames the temporary housing “Bahay Pag-asa” and mandates the creation of a multidisciplinary team for the protection of children composed of a social worker, psychologist or mental health professional, medical doctor, educational-guidance counselor, and barangay council representative.
There had been a huge public outcry over the use of minors by criminals, which prompted some sectors to call for a lowering of the age of criminal responsibility.
The new law does not lower the age of criminal responsibility (15 years), but it provides for some exemptions and for more intervention measures.
States RA 10630: “A child 15 years but below 18 years of age shall likewise be exempt from criminal liability and be subjected to an intervention program, unless he or she has acted with discernment, in which case, such child shall be subjected to the appropriate proceedings in accordance with this act.”
The new law also makes it clear that the exemption from criminal liability of minors “does not include exemption from civil liability, which shall be enforced in accordance with existing laws.”
The law says only offenders who are 12 years old can be committed to a youth facility.—Michael Lim Ubac