House lowers minimum age of criminal responsibility to 12

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives gave the greenlight to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12 years old on Monday, January 28. 

Legislators approved House Bill 8858 on 3rd and final reading with a vote of 146-34-0, less than a week after the measure’s second reading approval at the plenary. (READ: Highlights of House bill lowering criminal liability age to 12)

Under the bill, a child who is aged 12 to 18 years old and who commits a serious crime would be sent to the Intensive Juvenile Intervention and Support Center inside the nearest youth care facility, also called Bahay Pag-asa. (READ: When 'Houses of Hope' fail children in conflict with the law

These serious crimes involve parricide, murder, infanticide, kidnapping, serious illegal detention where the victim is killed or raped, or violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 that is punishable by more than 12 years in prison.

HB 8858, if passed into law, would supersede both RA 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 and RA 10630, which amended it. Both laws set the minimum criminal liability age to 15 years old. But through RA 10630, children as young as 12 who committed serious crimes are to be detained in the Bahay Pag-asa.  

Lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility is a legislative priority of President Rodrigo Duterte. Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has cited this to defend her support for HB 8858. Arroyo has been making it her mission to pass all of Duterte's pet bills before the 17th Congress adjourns.

From 9 to 12 

HB 8858 initially proposed lowering the minimum age of criminal liability from 15 years old to 9 years old.

But legislators decided to set it at 12 years old following strong resistance from opposition lawmakers and children’s rights groups. (READ: [ANALYSIS] Why jailing kids is not just cruel, it’s stupid too)

The passage of HB 8858 had been swift, with the House dedicating only two session days for the plenary debates. But bill sponsor and House committee on justice chairperson Salvador Leachon said 11 committee hearings on the bill were held since 2016. 

Senate President Vicente Sotto III, another Duterte ally, already said his chamber would prioritize the passage of its version of the bill. There are two pending Senate bills proposing to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility to at least 12 years old.  Rappler.com 

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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