Proposed criminal code can penalize 12-year-olds
Under a new proposed Criminal Code to be presented to Congress next week, a 12-year-old child can now be held liable for a crime he or she has committed.
The state will also prosecute grave crimes committed abroad against Filipinos, and there will no longer be a “frustrated” murder charge but only “consummated or attempted” charge.
These are some of the key features of Book 1 of the new Criminal Code, part of a new penal code being drafted by a criminal code committee created by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Justice Assistant Secretary Geronimo Sy, who heads the committee, said the draft criminal code will be presented in the form of a proposed bill to House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Sen. Francis Escudero and Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupaz Jr. on Monday.
State prosecutor Ryan Balicasan of the DOJ, a member of the committee secretarait who presented the proposed new criminal code at a news briefing yesterday, said the intention was not just to update the Revised Penal Code of 1932 but to “start from scratch” and to form a new penal code that was “simple, modern, organic and truly Filipino.’
Balicasan said Book 1 contained the general principles of the new penal code, and that the committee was now drafting Book 2 which will define the crimes and penalties.
“We hope this will be passed before 2016 so it could be part of the legislative legacy of President Aquino,” he said.
A “controversial” feature of the new code was setting the age of 12 years old as the minimum age of criminal responsibility. Under the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Law the the minimum age of responsibility is 15 years.
Minors as young as 12 years old have been found now to be committing crimes such as snatching, robbery and even date rape and serving as drug couriers, Sy noted.
But accused minors will not be held in jails given the poor prison conditions in the country. They can be adjudged criminally responsible for an offense “but they will not be jailed,” he said.
Another key feature of the new penal code would allow the state to prosecute grave crimes even if committed abroad against Filipinos. This is a concern of Filipino migrant workers who cannot would seek help in the country for a crime committed abroad because the Philippines lacked jurisdiction.
Balicasan said the new penal code is aiming for universal jurisdiction instead of territorial jurisdiction.
The new criminal code also removes the “frustrated” stage in the classification of crimes. Balicasan explained that when a crime is committed, it will be either consummated or attempted. The new provision simplifies the classification of a crime when charges are filed.
Another change the committee was seeking in order that processes in court would be shorter was to simplify the categorization of persons criminally responsible, Balicasan said.
The proposal was to drop “accomplice” and just classify an offender as either “principal” (if you do the crime or ordered it) and “accessory” (if you help criminals escape, among others).