More senators oppose, some cold on lowering age of criminal liability | Inquirer News
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More senators oppose, some cold on lowering age of criminal liability

By: - Reporter / @MAgerINQ
/ 11:25 AM January 22, 2019
Senate building

The Senate building at the GSIS Complex in Pasay City (Photo by LYN RILLON / Philippine Daily Inquirer)

MANILA, Philippines — More senators belonging to the majority bloc have expressed opposition to a bill seeking to lower the criminal liability for minors as young as nine years old.

The bill lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 to nine years old was already passed by the House of Representatives’ committee on justice.

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But for Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, lowering the age of criminal liability to nine  was not the “most effective” solution to curb criminality.

“Our focus should be on rehabilitating child offenders through more constructive and nurturing means than outright imprisonment. Children belong in schools, not in jails,” he said in a statement.

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If the objective of the  bill was to reduce  the number of children involved in illegal drugs, then he said the solution is to strengthen the juvenile justice system.

This could be done, Gatchalian said, through “stricter implementation of existing laws that prosecute adults who coerce children to engage in criminal behavior.”

“In addition, we must fully implement the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 to protect and rehabilitate children in conflict with the law through restorative, not punitive, means,” he added.

Even Senator Sonny Angara finds it that nine-year-old children are “too young” to face criminal liability.

“Hopefully, we can help our policemen and law enforcers fight criminality…but not by putting 9 year olds in jail. Nine year olds do not belong in jail,” Angara said in a text message.

“If they are sentenced for committing a crime, then there must be some intervention for them whether in a juvenile center or bahay pangarap but not in a regular jail where the chances for reform are slim,” he said.

Under the old law, Angara pointed out that  the sentence was suspended until the minors who committed a crime reach the age of maturity.

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Senator Joel Villanueva was also cold to the proposal to lower the age of criminal liability of minors to nine years old.

“If our problem is that a lot of children are being used to commit crime, then maybe what we should do as policy is to increase the penalty of adults who used kids to commit crime and to improve our intelligence unit and improve our capacity to reduce crime instead of penalizing children who are in fact victims in these situations,” Villanueva said in another text message.

He also stressed the need to improve the strategies in rehabilitating juvenile delinquents.

“I think the involvement of a number of kids in the commission of crime is an indication that we have failed as a society in protecting our children. Punishing them is not the right approach,” Villanueva said.

The three senators —Gatchalian, Angara, and Villanueva are members of the majority bloc in the Senate.

Another majority member, Senator Nancy Binay, has earlier aired her strong  opposition on the bill, while  Senate  President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto  questioned the “science” in pegging the age threshold at nine years old.

READ: Senators  divided on lowering age of criminal liability

Other senators who have also opposed the  House bill were oppositions members—   Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Antonito Trillanes IV, Bam Aquino and Risa Hontiveros. /jpv

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