MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Despite opposition from some senators, Senate committees recommended the lowering of the minimum age of criminal responsibility from the current 15 years old to 12 years old.
“A child 12 years of age and above but below 18 years of age shall likewise be exempt from liability and be subjected to an intervention program, unless the child has acted with discernment, in which case, such child shall be subjected to the appropriate proceedings in accordance with this Act,” read the 13-page committee report obtained by Rappler on Wednesday, January 30.
"The exemption from liability herein established does not include exemption from civil liability, which shall be enforced in accordance with existing laws and this act," it said.
The report was prepared by the committees on justice and human rights; women, children, family relations and gender quality; and finance.
Eleven of the 21 member senators signed the report, namely:
The 10 members who did not or were unable to sign the report are:
Gordon is set to sponsor the measure on Monday. After which, the bill will be up for deliberations and amendments, before it gets approved on 2nd and then on 3rd and final reading.
Under the bill, the supervision of Bahay Pag-Asa, the rehabilitation centers for children in conflict with the law (CICL), will be transferred from local government units to the Department of Social Welfare and Development. The funding would be included in the DSWD’s annual budget.
The bill also proposes the creation of Juvenile Reformatory Centers, which would be managed by the DSWD and the Department of the Interior and Local Government. Each center is meant to be “a 24-hour child-caring institution providing residential care for children in conflict with the law,” who commits serious crimes such as parricide, murder, and kidnapping, among others.
Under the measure, parents of CICL will be held liable and will “suffer the penalty of prision correccional in its minimum period to prision correccional in its maximum period.”
The House of Representatives already approved on final reading its version of the bill, also setting the minimum age of criminal liability at 12 years old.
Senators are divided on the issue, with some amenable to 12 years old. Others, however, are totally opposed to any proposals to lower the age.
Gordon earlier said he is expecting the passage of the measure by June or before the 17th Congress adjourns.
Psychologists, pro-child groups, and social workers oppose lowering the minimum age of liability, saying that a child’s brain has not yet fully developed at adolescence and that the problem is the law’s implementation. (READ: Children in conflict with the law: Cracks in Juvenile Justice Act)
During the first Senate hearing on the measure, it was found that the law’s implementation is lacking, primarily on the construction and maintenance of Bahay Pag-Asa (Houses of Hope), which serve as youth detention and rehabilitation centers. (READ: Senators hit LGUs' lack of funding for youth detention, rehab centers) – Rappler.com
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email firstname.lastname@example.org