Jail parents of juvenile offenders now
Senate President Vicente Sotto III wants to lower the “age of criminal responsibility” from the present 15 years old to 13 years old. Last year, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon proposed that it be 12 years old, while Sen. Francis Escudero pushed for 9 years old, similar to proposals in the House.
As expected, Sotto’s new proposal triggered a storm of criticism from the UN Children’s Fund, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and pro-child groups. But he argued that we are now way below international standards while the number of juvenile offenders, or children in conflict with the law (CICL), is rising.
In March 2017, a Pulse Asia survey of 1,200 respondents showed that 55 percent were in favor of retaining 15 years old as the age of criminal responsibility. On the other hand, 20 percent wanted age 12 while only 9 percent were in favor of Escudero’s 9 years old.
I checked globally and found 12 countries that shared our standard of 15 years old, namely, Laos, Bahrain, Iran, Burundi, Swaziland, Poland, Czech Republic, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland.
America has no minimum age of responsibility in 33 of its 50 states. And among those who do, the highest is Wisconsin at age 10, while North Carolina is the lowest at age 7. In the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, it’s 10 years old while it’s 12 years old in Canada, Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands. For Germany, Italy and Spain, it’s 14 years old but in France, it’s 18 years old.
In Latin America where Catholicism is prevalent, it’s 18 years old in Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. For Mexico, which is waging war on drug lords, it’s 12 years old. Colombia, which also has a drug problem, follows 14 years old along with Argentina.
In Southeast Asia, Thailand, Myanmar and Singapore peg it at 7 years old; Indonesia, 8; Malaysia and Hong Kong, 10; Macau and Sri Lanka, 12; and Cambodia and Vietnam, 14.
Japan, South Korea, North Korea and China set it at 14 years old while for India, it’s age 7.
Indeed, Sotto is correct that we need to lower our age of criminal responsibility with our drug situation and poverty-triggered criminality worsening nationwide.
In April 2016, statistics from the Philippine National Police Women’s and Children’s Protection Center revealed that 26,907 juvenile offenders surrendered under “Oplan Double Barrel/Tokhang.” A total of 94 percent were young boys, 14 years old and below. In June this year, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency said it “rescued” 1,155 CICLs in anti-illegal drug operations.
Clearly, we must now raise our “age of minimum responsibility” to either 13 or 12 and stop our bullheadedness. Republic Act No. 9344 should be amended now, but based on two important conditions. First, establish functioning juvenile care centers (Bahay Pag-asa) with enough funding in every city nationwide. And most importantly, jail all parents of these juvenile offenders because their irresponsibility pushed their own children into a life of crime at a young age.
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I wish to thank people who took care of me during a medical procedure last week at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City: Doctors Josefino Castillo, Malou Cera-Garcia, Arabelle Caburnay, Imelda Estrellas, Jerome San Jose, Jan Silangcruz, Rogerson Tiangco and media colleague Marilen Lagniton. My gratitude also to the nurses and aides during my six-day confinement at the annex suites. And of course, to my Inquirer bosses MRP, Sandy and PRP. Maraming salamat po.
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