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Solons warn parents of children in conflict with law

/ 04:53 PM February 27, 2017
The plenary hall of the House of Representatives

The plenary hall of the House of Representatives. (Photo from the Philippine Daily Inquirer)

Lawmakers from the majority bloc in the House of Representatives warned parents who let their children be used by crime syndicates now that the lower house is bent on passing a bill lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility.

During the “Ugnayan sa Batasan” forum at the House of Representatives on Monday, Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia led her colleagues in rallying support for the controversial bill, another priority bill of President Rodrigo Duterte on top of  a bill restoring the death penalty in his campaign promise of stamping out criminality.

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READ: Gabriela calls solons backing lower criminal liability age ‘King Herods’ 

Garcia said in her experience as governor, it was a common complaint among local government units that children in conflict with the law carry with them their birth certificates to get away with detention.

The Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 puts the minimum age of criminal responsibility at 15 years old. The pending bill seeks to amend the law and lower the age to nine years old.

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“The irony is we passed this law purportedly to protect our children, but instead of protecting children, this opened the floodgates for criminal syndicates and even criminal-minded parents to use their children to commit crimes,” Garcia said.

READ: DSWD, CHR oppose lowering age of criminal liability

Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, who chairs the House justice committee, blamed the parents for neglecting their children and allowing them to be used by criminal syndicates.

“Ang problema kasi yung mga batang na-involve sa krimen, sa batas, ang sinasabi ibalik sa magulang. Kaya nga napariwara yung bata. Nagpabaya yung magulang… Minsan sila ang gumagamit sa mga bata para maging kriminal,” Umali said.

(The problem is according to the law, the children who are involved in crimes should be returned to their parents. The children commit crimes precisely because their parents neglected them… Sometimes, the parents are the ones who use the children to become criminals.)

READ: UNICEF: Lowering criminal liability age harms kids’ well-being 

Nueva Ecija Rep. Estrellita “Ging” Suansing said she co-authored the bill because of the increasing number of cases involving children in conflict with the law.

“I am one of the authors of lowering the age of criminal responsibility and the reason why is because of the rising incidents of juvenile offenders,” Suansing said.

READ: PH psychological association opposes lowering criminal liability age 

Suansing said the bill intends to send a message to the parents to be accountable for their children’s actions.

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“We are sending a message to the parents to be responsible and accountable for the acts of their children,” Suansing said.

READ: Alvarez seeks to lower age for minor offenders 

In House Bill 2, authors Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro sought to revert the minimum age of criminal liability from the current 15 years old to as young as nine years old.

The House leaders’ bill entitled “Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility Act” seeks to amend the “Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006” or Republic Act 9344, which set the minimum age for criminal liability at 15 years old.

READ: ‘Lowering criminal liability age leads youth to negative path’ 

The authors said children are being used by criminals as accomplices in their crimes, particularly drug trafficking, because these minors could not be held criminally liable.

In a July 2016 interview, Alvarez had said that his bill would seek to put minors in detention to rehabilitate them, but not to punish them with death.

READ: Alvarez: No minors to be punished with death penalty

Alvarez then said death penalty would be too harsh a punishment for children who he believed are not capable of heinous crimes, such as murder, rape or plunder. RAM/rga

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TAGS: Children, criminal responsibility, House of Representatives, law, minimum age
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