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CHR: Don’t shift burden to children, address lapses in law

/ 11:38 AM January 24, 2019
House, Senate tackle juvenile crime bills

Human Rights Commissioners Leah Tanodra-Armamento and Karen Gomez-Dumpit join the opposition to a House measure that would lower the age of criminal responsibility. INQUIRER FILE / GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Thursday urged the government to “stop shifting the burden to children” and rather “start addressing lapses in the law’s implementation” before it considers lowering the age of criminal liability.

The CHR issued the statement after the House of Representatives on Wednesday approved on second reading a bill seeking to lower the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12 years old – not nine years old as earlier proposed.

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READ: Amid public anger, House relents on criminalizing 9-yr-olds

 

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“We must stop shifting the burden to children and start addressing lapses in the law’s implementation; providing better support and guidance to children; as well as stricter means to curb syndicates and individuals who feed on our children’s vulnerabilities,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said in a statement.

The Commission noted that adjusting the proposed age of criminal liability from nine to 12 is “not an act of compassion nor is it aligned with the government’s responsibility to uphold its obligation to protect the rights of children, including the most vulnerable and marginalized.”

It also stressed that the government is not even prepared to house more children in conflict with the law as there are only 58 Bahay Pag-asa facilities, adding that the current Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act has yet to be fully and properly implemented.

“Local governments have already been mandated then to establish, fund, and manage Bahay Pag-asa facilities, with appropriate programs for delinquents. Yet, in 2018, only 58 are operational and only 8 of which have been accredited by the Department of Social Welfare and Development,” De Guia said.

Oriental Mindoro 1st District Rep. Salvador “Doy” Leachon, House justice panel chair, explained that the measure is not meant to put children in jail, but to reform and protect them.

READ: House panel swiftly okays lower age of criminal liabilityChildren in conflict with the law won’t be sent to ordinary prisons, Leachon clarifies

Meanwhile, the Duterte administration hit critics of the lower age of criminal liability for basing their opposition on “blissful ignorance or pretended misinformation.”

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READ: Palace hits ‘misinformation,’ critics of lower age of liability

In the Senate, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon filed Senate Bill No. 1603 seeking to lower the age of criminal liability to 12 years old, while Senate President Vicente Sotto III filed SBN 2026 seeking to lower the age to “above 12 years old.” These bills have been pending in the chamber’s justice committee. /cbb

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