Age of criminal liability stays at 15

Carmela Fonbuena

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Senator Escudero says Congress will hold a special session on June 5 to ratify the measure amending the Juvenile Justice Law

Senator Francis Escudero. File photo

MANILA, Philippines – The age of criminal liability stays at 15. 

The bicameral conference committee met on Tuesday, May 28, to finalize amendments to the Juvenile Justice Law. Sen Francis Escudero told reporters the bicam did not accept the proposal to lower the age of criminal liability to 12 years old. 

Ang problema 15 na tayo nagsimula. Ang international standards 15 din. Hindi siguro tama na bumaba tayo sa 12 matapos nating ipataw nang 15 o i-set ng 15 yung age of absolute criminal responsibility,” Escudero said. (The problem is, we started at 15. International standards are also at 15. It wouldn’t be right for us to lower the age of absolute criminal responsibility to 12 when we started at 15.)

Wala kaming binago don sa probisyon na ‘yon. Sa ilalim ng existing na batas meron pa rin silang intervention program at pwede rin sila na involuntarily i-commit,” he added. (We didn’t change that provision. Under existing laws, they enter an intervention program and they can also be committed involutarily.) 

What will happen to children older than 12 but younger than 15 who are in conflict with the law? They can be subjected to “intensified intervention program” and “involuntary commitment.”

Escudero explained: “Kapag sila’y may na-commit na heinous crime, na serious offense, at kapag repeat offender sila, merong mga provision kung paano sila isa-subject sa intensified intervention program at involuntary commitment as the case may be.” (If they commit a heinous crime, or if they’re repeat offenders, the law has a provision stating how they’ll be subjected to an intensified intervention program and involuntary commitment as the case may be.) 

‘Yung above 15 but below 18 existing pa rin yung provision na pwede silang sampahan ng kaso kapag ma-prove na may discernment sila in accordance with existing law, hindi na namin ginalaw yon,” he added. (We didn’t change the provision which states that those above 15 but below 18 can be charged if it’s proven that they acted with discernment in accordance with existing law.)

Escudero said the proposal to lower the age of criminal liability was the most contentious part of the bill.

Lead agency: DSWD

Other amendments were introduced to the measure. Escudero said Congress will hold a special session on June 5 to ratify the measure. 

Escudero enumerated the following amendments to the law:

1) The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) becomes the lead agency that will implement the law. It was originally the Department of Justice. 

2) Those who use children to aid them in criminal acts will face the maximum punishment for the crime committed by the children. 

3) Funds were allocated to construct Bahay Pag-asa in different parts of the country, especially in areas where there is high incidence of children in conflict with the law. 

Asked if the amendments will keep children out of organized crime, Escudero said it will depend on the implementation of the law. –

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