CONSENSUS

The House Justice Committee Subcommmittee on Correctional Reforms has come up with a consolidated substitute to the proposals to lower the of minimum age of criminal responsbility from the current 15 to 9.

The substitute proposal will keep the age of responsIbility at 15  years old, but those who will be apprehended for conflicts with the law below that age will not go scot free as is the case under the current law.  Stressing that  children in conflict with law below age 15 will notbe  labelled and treated as criminals,  the Technical Working group led by Kabayan Party List Rep. Ron Salo said  these children will be committed instead to rehabilitation.  “After thorough discussions, the TWG agreed that children should be made accountable and liable for their actions, but without the corresponding label as criminals. As such, the TWG agreed that minimum age of criminal responsibility will not be lowered to the current fifteen (15) years. However, CICL aged below fifteen (15) years should not be immediately released, as currently allowed under the law, but should instead be immediately subjected to intervention programs of the government in order to begin their rehabilitation and reintegration to society. These proposed amendments are contained in Section 2 of the proposed substitute bill.”

Salo added, “Also, as discussed and agreed upon by the TWG members, the establishment and operation of Bahay Pag-asa shall now be under the DSWD, as opposed to the present set-up where the responsibility for its establishment and operation is lodged with the local government units (LGUs). The TWG learned that despite the mandate given to the LGUs under the law, very few LGUs have established their respective Bahay Pag-asa for various reasons. The TWG, therefore, is convinced that it is more appropriate for the DSWD to be primarily responsible for the establishment and operation of Bahay Pag-asa. This matter is incorporated in Section 1 and Section 9 of the substitute bill.”

Salo likewise said, “In order to further discourage, if not totally eliminate, the use of children by adults in their commission of crimes, Section 3 increases the penalty of exploitation of children for the commission of crimes. It incorporates the proposal agreed upon by the TWG to impose a tiered penalty based on the crime which the child is induced or coerced to commit.”

Salo also pointed out that, “In order to underscore the reduced capacity of children in decision-making, Section 5 adds a new section for the reduced sentence of CICL convicted by the Courts. For crimes punishable by the RPC, the penalty shall be 2 degrees lower, while for special laws with fixed period of imprisonment, the period shall be halved. Life imprisonment shall be lowered to imprisonment of up to 12 years.”

Salo said that In order to maximize the rehabilitative and integrative programs of the government to ensure that the CICL become productive citizens, Section 6 increases the maximum age for the extension of the suspended sentence, from twenty-one (21) to twenty-five (25) years. In order to reward CICL for good behavior, Section 7 deducts the time served by the CICL under diversion, intervention, rehabilitation or detention from the period of sentence, in accordance with Art. 97 of the RPC. The bill’s Section 10 mandates the confinement of CICL convicted by the court to agricultural camps or training camps established also by the DSWD, in coordination with relevant agencies of the government. DSWD is mandated to establish at least two (2) agricultural camps and training facilities each in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, which shall have separate facilities for male and female children. On the other hand, Section 11 adds accredited foster parents to the list of persons to whom a CICL may be released after availing of community-based rehabilitation.

The bill now will also be re-titled, to read, “AN ACT EXPANDING THE SCOPE OF THE JUVENILE JUSTICE AND WELFARE SYSTEM AND STRENGTHENING THE SOCIAL REINTEGRATION PROGRAMS FOR CHILDREN IN CONFLICT WITH THE LAW, AMENDING FOR THE PURPOSE REPUBLIC ACT NO. 9344, AS AMENDED, OTHERWISE KNOWN AS THE “JUVENILE JUSTICE AND WELFARE ACT OF 2006”

The Bill will now be endorsed to the main justice committee before it can be sent to the appropriations committee for its funding provisions  and then the plenary.

lowering the age of criminal responsbility has been one of the priority advicaties of House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

Akbayan Party list and children’s rights advocates picketed Congress to reject proposals to lower the age of criminal responsbility to age 9 from 15 even as  A Technical Working Group’s substitute bill instead will go after parents and adults using chidlren in criminal activities even as it spared children of criminal liability.

during the deliberations of the House Justice Committee Subcommittee on Correctional Reforms,

The TWG’s Chair , Kabayan Rep. Ron Salo said parents and adults who use children in crminal activities can face life imprisonment as a maximum sentence.

After Presenting the bill, Salo was asked by Buhay Party List Rep. Lito Atienza, “how and why and what further punishment do we mete out those who are guilty in exploiting the children in criminal activties like parents syndicates crime syndicates police enforcers who are also using chidlren..all these elements should be given heavier penalty what kind of hevaier penalty does the substitute bill envision”

Salo explained, “with respect to the penalties to be imposed on adults who are exploiting children this particular matter is provided for under sec 3 and they will be penalized heavily under sec 3 of the propsoed substitute bill which amends sec 20c it states exploitation of children for the commission of crimes any person who  makes use takesadvante or profits from the use of children or a child  including any person who abuses his or her authority or who otehrwise induces or coerces a child to commit a crime must be punished by reclusion temporal if the crime committed is punishable by minimum of 6 years or less and by reclusion perpetua if the crime committed is punishable by imprisonment of more than 6 years.”

Salo added that  parents of cicl will  undergo mandatory counselling and intervention and penalizes parents of cicl who fail to undergo the same. “first is the civil liability of the parents they are socially responsbile they have to undergo mandatory counselling and intervention programs their failure to attend will subject them to criminal liability”

Atienza however wants parents to be penalized more. “they should also be made the most liable and the most penalty and not just counselling they should be penalized so they will remember not to allow their children to go their own way”

Deputy Speaker Fred Castro however responded, “we should not in these amendatory bill we should not pinpoint sole responsbility on parents. responsbility here is contributory among all stakeholders and who are these stakeholders we have the parents we have the govt “

one of the bill’s proponents, Deputy Speaker Pia Cayetano highlighted the need to make sure children in conflict withe law aged below 15 have to be held accountable be subjected to appropriate disciplinary and rehabilitation activities.

Cayetano pointed out that currently, the law has been abused so children below age 15 can be used in crime. “the law as it stands for the last few years has not be able to address this concern these children on one extreme blatantly wave their birth certificate at law enforcers to show thay cannot be apprehended because they are less than 15 these children must take responsbile for their actions. no you must be responsbile for it. because for some  reason the law in a way has been taken advantage of and its okay for these chodlren to commit these petty crimes.  its acceptable because they are young they dont know what they are doing.”

Cayetano adds that if parents cannot impose discipline on children in conflicts with the law one way or another, the state will do that job. “this bill emphasizes that no you are responsbile  and there are consequences for your action even if you are 9 years old  or 10 years old ,the  state will take respnsbility  and disciplne you if the parents cannot do that, there are now details within the bill that will allow the state to take over parental responsbility by putting them in the corresponding intervention programs.  we recognize parental responsbility. di yan agad agad tinatanggal sa parents if the parents cannot do their job, then the state comes in and takes over  that job

but what we have tried to do is to remove the stigma of being a criminal but all the intrvention programs are there. i do believe we were able to find a balance here if there are areas we have not addressed.”

Cayetano says one of the bill’s provisions is requiring parents of children in conflict with the law to undergo counselling. “what we initially thought of doing here was to give the parent the chance  also to be reformed by attending the seminars, first intention is give the parent the opportunity to attend the seminar, refusing to do so will subject them to criminal sanctions”

Salo categorically stated that the age of criminal responsbility stays at 15. Atienza asked “are we now lowering the age from 15 to 9 or are we totally pegging the age of criminal liability to 15 meanwhile strengthening the good effects of other provisions affecting those below 15?”

Salo responded, “the age of criminal responsbility pegged at 15 wasnt changed except that the age of 9 to below 15  is what we call the age of social responsbility for these children in c;nflict wth the law will be subjected to mandatory intervention by the government to ensure that they are rehabilitated and reintegrated into society”

Akbayan in a statement hailed the bill. “This is a step closer to victory for fellow advocates of children’s rights, and ultimately for the Filipino children themselves. The rejection of a lower minimum age of criminal responsibility is a clear sign that the House Justice subcommittee has heard the clamor of the advocates and communities.”

(sots)