Senators weigh in on move to lower age of criminal responsibility to 9

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The House of Representatives Committee on Justice, chaired by Oriental Mindoro 1st District Representative Doy Leachon, approved on Monday an unnumbered substitute bill which seeks to bring down the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to nine years old.

The House of Representatives (HOR) said the measure substituted House Bill 2 authored by Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro and Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez (1st District, Davao del Norte), HB 505 by Rep. Victor Yap (2nd District, Tarlac), HB 935 by Rep. Tobias Tiangco (Lone District, Navotas City), HB 1609 by Rep. Mercedes Cagas (Lone District, Davao del Sur), HB 2009 by Rep. Romeo Acop (2nd District, Antipolo City), and HB 3973 by Estrellita Suansing (1st District, Nueva Ecija).

“This bill was brought about by the alarming increase in the number of criminal syndicates using minors to carry out criminal acts based on recent news reports. It is high time to pass this bill in order to protect our children from being used by ruthless and unscrupulous criminal syndicates to evade prosecution and punishment,”┬áLeachon┬ásaid.

According to HOR, the minimum age of criminal responsibility was originally pegged at nine years old. It was changed after almost 70 years in 2006 upon the effectivity of RA 9344, which raised the age to 15 years old.

However, some senators have expressed opposition on the said measure.

“Palagay natin, hindi iyan isang deterrent sa krimen sa ating bansa. Nagiging cruel lang tayo sa ating kabataan at sa ating mga anak. Saan ka nakikita ng isang lipunan na ang 9 years old, gustong ikulong gaya ng isang 25 o 30 years old,” Senator Bam Aquino said.

“Our position remains unchanged. We reiterate that lowering the MACR is anti-poor, as most children in conflict with the law come from poor families and have no meaningful access to legal services,” Senator Grace Poe said.

“We should improve how we run our economy so that the lives of every Filipino family will improve and take good care of our children. That is what the administration should be focusing on,” Senator Kiko Pangilinan said.

“Where is the science in pegging the age threshold at 9?” Senator Ralph Recto said. “If a law is meant to remedy a problem, then what is the projected drop in the crime index that the desired policy will bring? Magbalangkas po tayo ng batas na base sa datos at hindi sa akala at haka-haka.”

For Senator Ping Lacson, for him to support the said measure provided that: the youth offender is proven to have acted with discernment when he or she committed the crime, especially serious ones; sentencing is suspended until the offender reaches the age of majority; and there are enough and properly supervised reformative facilities to rehabilitate the youth offenders.

Lacson added that his support for the lowering of the age of criminal liability “to a certain level” will depend on “science-based testimonies of experts in the field of child psychology.”