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Duterte talks to kids about 'generations' of criminals

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – In front of boy and girl scouts as young as 4 years old, President Rodrigo Duterte called for amendments to the Juvenile Delinquency Act of 2006 or Republic Act Number 9344.

He blasted the measure, also called the Pangilinan Law after its author Senator Francis Pangilinan, for creating "generations" of criminals.

"[Pangilinan] was too in a hurry, pinalusot niya 'yun (he let it through) that's why we produce about 5, 6 generations of people who committed crimes and released on the same day irrespective of the gravity of the offense," said Duterte on Monday, April 3.

He was speaking at a Boy Scouts of the Philippines event at the Palace where he was named its 7th Chief Scout, an honor given to sitting presidents.

Among the audience were 4- to 6-year-old Kid Scouts and 7- to 10-year-old Cub Scouts.

"I am so sad about the passage of the Juvenile Offenders Act and he (Pangilinan) brought [up] the age [of criminal responsibility] to 15. Whatever you do, even if you kill, rape, or steal or rape with homicide, when your mother comes, you go home," the President said.

Duterte wants to bring back the age of criminal responsibility to 9 years old. But he wants kids found guilty of crimes to be admitted into "correctional facilities," not prisons. 

The President seemed misinformed, however. His remarks show he was referring to the original Pangilinan law or the Juvenile Justice Act of 2006, which was amended in 2013 through Republic Act 10630. (READ: FACT CHECK: Duterte misinformed that child offenders can just 'go home')

Contrary to the President's claim, children below 15 years old who commit murder, homicide, rape, or robbery with homicide, among others, cannot just get off the hook.

In his speech, Duterte said it would be good to adopt similar policies in Washington, DC and New York in the United States.

"It is good to copy legislation of developed countries. That was copied from New York and Washington. When a child is found guilty, they are not released," he said.

"In accordance with the countries, they are sent to [a] correctional facility or halfway house. There they are taught a sense of responsibility, hindi kulungan 'yan, correctional facility (that's not a prison but a correctional facility)."

After finishing the required time in the correctional facility, the child offenders could start with a clean record.

"'Pagkatapos niyan, erase ang record mo, parang wala kang ginawang masama," the President said. (After that, your record is erased, like you did nothing wrong.)

House agenda

Duterte's allies in the House of Representatives aim to revert the age of criminal responsibility to 9 years old through House Bill Number 2 or the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility Act.

But Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo earlier said lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility is "anti-poor" and that doing so will not curb the crime rate. The Department of Education also cited the increasing cases of bullying in schools where child offenders might be penalized under the bills. (READ: Alvarez to Cabinet: Against lower age of criminal responsibility? Then resign

Panglinan himself earlier said the law was backed by studies, urging lawmakers to use hard data to support their proposed amendments. (READ: Pangilinan to Alvarez: Gravity of crime, not kids' age, should matter)

If passed, the Pangilinan Law would be amended to read: "A child nine (9) years of age and above but below eighteen (18) years of age shall likewise be exempt from criminal liability and subjected to an intervention program unless he/she is determined to have acted with discernment, in which case he/she shall be subjected to appropriate proceedings in accordance with this Act.

"The exemption from criminal liability herein established does not include exemption from civil liability, which shall be enforced in accordance with existing laws."

Because Duterte also wants to reinstate the death penalty, some senators have voiced the concern that if the Pangilinan Law is amended along with the reinstatement of the death penalty, criminals as young as 9 years old could be sentenced to life imprisonment or even death. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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