Senate opens plenary discussions on age of criminal liability
MANILA, Philippines — Senators began plenary deliberations on Monday on the controversial bill lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) from 15 years old to 12 years old.
Senator Richard Gordon opened the debates when he sponsored the measure on the floor as chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights.
Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III took the floor to co-sponsor the bill and endorse the passage of the measure.
In his co-sponsorship speech, Sotto lamented the “misinformation” being propagated by critics of the bill to mislead the public.
“Sinisiraan ang mga pabor sa amendment ng mga salitang — “Grabe naman sila, 12 anyos pa lang ikukulong na nila. Sobra naman sila, isasama ang mga 12 years old sa mga harderned criminals sa kulungan, etc. etc.” he said.
(They criticize those who are in favor of the amendment, saying ‘how can they do that, they are sending 12-year-old children to jail. They are going to mix children with hardened criminals inside jails, etc.’)
But Sotto pointed out that lowering the threshold to 12 years of age “simply means that the government and the state can intervene in conflict situations involving its young citizens with the end in view of providing them guidance and a chance at reformation.”
In pushing for the passage of the measure, the Senate leader cited several cases of children who were in conflict with the law unpunished, like the kid caught on video bullying other kids.
“Naaalala pa ba ninyo yung nag viral na video ng nam-bully ng kaeskuela at ikinagalit ng sambayanan (Did you remember the viral video of the kid that bullied other kids that enraged the public)?”
“Walang puedeng ikaso pala sa batang nambugbog. Ni hindi naimbestigahan. Katorse anyos lang daw and edad. Musmos pa daw. Ayon sa kasalukuyang batas ‘infant.’ Duguan ang mukha at nguso ng kanyang ginulpi. Nguni’t wala tayong magagawa,” Sotto said.
(No case can be filed against the bully. It cannot be even investigated because he is only 14 years old. According to our present laws, he is still an ‘infant.’ The kid he punched was bloodied, but we can’t do anything.)
The Senate leader also reiterated that the bill would not jail but rehabilitate children who are in conflict with the law.
Opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros also took the floor to manifest their opposition to the measure.
Pangilinan said the minority members would have dissented if the committee report on MACR was routed to them. /ee
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