House OKs on final reading bill lowering age of criminal responsibility to 12
MANILA, Philippines — The bill seeking to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) to 12 years old has been approved by the House of Representatives on the third and final reading.
During the regular session on Monday, House members voted 144 to 34, passing the heavily-scrutinized House Bill 8858, which will amend the R.A. 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006.
This comes one session day after the House passed the same bill on the second reading.
Normally, proposals can only be approved on the final reading three session days after the previous approval — unless certified as urgent by the President.
The bill has been backed by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte and Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Previously, Arroyo explained that their support for HB 8858 is in line with Duterte’s legislative agenda, as well as his desire to prevent organized crime syndicates from tapping children for illegal activities.
The original version of HB 8858 from the House committee on justice placed MACR at nine years old.
It was passed swiftly, but sparked outrage and drew stiff opposition from religious leaders, celebrities, members of opposition blocs, and civil society groups.
Duterte has also openly criticized R.A. 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006.
According to the President, the law and its author, Senator Francis Pangilinan, are to blame for the rise in the number of ‘criminal minds’.
Last January 22, children’s rights advocates denounced the move by Congress, explaining that majority of crimes nationwide – around 98 percent – are still being committed by adults.
They also called out lawmakers supportive of the bill, saying that the measure will only bring more problems than solutions, especially since facilities supposed to house the minor-offenders are not fit for humans. /gsg
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