MANILA, Philippines – House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez believes that Cabinet secretaries of national agencies who are against the proposal to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 9 years old should resign.
“I attended a meeting with the [Juvenile Justice Welfare] Council. I just reminded the secretaries that they are the alter ego of the President. Now if they don’t agree with the President, they might as well tender their resignation,” said Alvarez on Wednesday, February 1.
“Because as Cabinet secretaries, you don’t contradict with the views of the President. Alter ego ka nga eh. Ngayon kung ayaw mong maniwala dun, 'eh ‘di mag-resign ka (Now, if you don't believe it, then resign),” he added.
Alvarez had confirmed attending the January 25 closed-door meeting between congressmen and the Juvenile Justice Welfare Council, which include representatives from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Justice, Department of Interior and Local Government, Commission on Human Rights, National Youth Commission, and the Council for the Welfare of Children.
During the meeting, it became apparent that most of the national agencies are not supporting the bills which would lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 9 years old. The said measures are a priority of President Rodrigo Duterte. (READ: Congressmen seek compromise: 12 as age of criminal responsibility)
Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo earlier said that lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility is “anti-poor” and that doing so will not curb the crime rate.
The DepEd also cited the increasing cases of bullying in schools where child offenders might be penalized under the bills.
No to compromise
Congressmen are now seeking a compromise, lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 12 years old instead.
But Alvarez disagrees. (READ: Alvarez to Pangilinan, Aquino: Bill seeks to rehabilitate child offenders)
“No. Nag-aral ako ng law, 9 years old na ‘yan. At mas advanced na tayo ngayon in terms of discernment. Bakit kailangan nating iakyat yan?” he said.
(No. Since I was studying the law, that’s at 9 years old already. Now we’re more advanced in terms of discernment. Why do we have to make the age of criminal responsibility higher?)
Alvarez is a co-author of one of the bill seeking to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility in the country from 15 to 9 years old, amending Republic Act Number 9344 or the "Juvenile Delinquency Act of 2006” authored by Senator Francis Pangilinan. (READ: Pangilinan to Alvarez: Gravity of crime, not kids' age, should matter) – With reports from Patty Pasion/Rappler
Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at email@example.com or tweet @maracepeda.