HOR COMPLEX, Quezon City (DWDD) – More House members have expressed their views on the pending proposal to lower the age of criminal responsibility, stressing that its enactment should be beneficial, not detrimental, to children.
Rep. Divina Grace Yu (1st District, Zamboanga del Sur), chairperson of the House committee on welfare of children, and Rep. Jose Panganiban (Party-list, ANAC-IP), chairman of the committee on agriculture and food, made known their respective positions during the bi-monthly press briefing organized by the Office of the Speaker.
Yu said while she is personally favors lowering the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12, she supports her committee’s stand to wait for the approval of the bill by the committee on justice, which has jurisdiction over the measure, and then study its provisions.
“’We’ve been waiting for the bill so the committee on welfare of children will be able to study its provisions and ensure they will not be detrimental to the welfare of children. Pag-uusapan namin bawat provision,” said Yu.
Yu said the bill has laudable intent for the children, based on reports from the Philippine National Police (PNP), children aged 15 and below are being used by criminal syndicates to commit crimes to escape criminal responsibility.
“Pero pag tiningnan naman natin na the provisions of the bill are not favorable or parang nakakasama sa mga kabataan, we would air our side in behalf of the committee on welfare of children na baguhin yung provision na nakasaad na hindi maganda para sa mga kabataan,” said Yu.
Personally, she said she is in favor of lowering the age of criminal responsibility, but if the majority of the members of the committee on welfare of children would say the bill is detrimental to the welfare of children, then Yu would bring the voice of the majority of the committee not to favor the said bill.
She said she is open to discussions later at the committee on justice. “There would be studies and reports, there would be discussions, so I’m open to the discussions whether to lower it to nine or to 12, or not at all,” said Yu.
Panganiban said the issue is not to lower the age of criminal liability or not, or if the age of the child is 9 or 12 years old.
“The issue is, if we lower the age of criminal liability, will it lessen the crime rate? The author of the bill is proceeding on the issue that children are now being used to perpetrate crime. And easily, they could escape the criminal responsibility. If the issue is to penalize those using children to commit crimes, then maybe we should raise the penalties against parents and persons using children (for crimes). That is my personal view,” said Panganiban.
Panganiban said the issue of whether the age of criminal responsibility is nine or 12 is an issue of discernment.
“Di ko alam kung may study na ginawa na pag nine years old ka, nakakapag-decide na ng sarili yun or pag 12 or 15 years old. Because as it is, our age of majority is 18 years old. So nagkataon lang na yun nga, ang big difference ang age of majority natin is 18 while ang age of criminal responsibility is 15. Nabawasan ba ung crime? Hindi. So pag ni-lower pa natin sa 12 or 9, at hindi natin sinasama na to make the penalties stiff, dun sa mga parents or dun sa mga gumagamit (sa mga bata), then I don’t think lowering it to 6 or 5 will do,” said Panganiban.
Panganiban proposed that the penalties for parents who use children for criminal activities should include imprisonment.
“Dapat ang parusa sa magulang isama ung kulungan. Dapat kung anong crime na nagawa, yun ang crime ng magulang. Kasi ang responsibilidad habang ang bata below the majority is sa magulang. Hindi naman natin pwedeng ipasa kaninuman,”said Panganiban.
The House sub-committee on correctional reforms chaired by Rep. Henry Oaminal opened last Nov. 21, 2016 the deliberations on the following measures seeking to lower the age of criminal responsibility: HB 2 by Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez; HB 505 by Rep. Victor Yap; HB 935 by Rep. Tobias Tiangco; HB 1609 by Rep. Mercedes Cagas; HB 2009 by Rep. Romeo Acop; and HB 3973 by Rep. Estrellita Suansing.
During the press briefing, Yu and Panganiban also reported the accomplishments of their committees. Yu said to date, about 50 bills, resolutions and privilege speeches have been referred to the committee on the welfare of children, of which about 30 of these bills have already been acted upon. Several bills for the regulation of children products containing hazardous substances have already been discussed in the committee. It also begun the deliberation on the bills for “Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict”; finalized its report on the bill “Promoting Positive and Non-Violent Discipline of Children”; and approved its report on various proposals on the “Magna Carta for Day Care Workers.”
Meanwhile, Panganiban said among the important measures approved by the committee on agriculture and food are : the “Free Irrigation Services Act” which seeks to strengthen the assistance to farmers and to boost agricultural development; and the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Trust Fund or the “Coco Levy Fund Trust Fund Act” which seeks to make the government gain control of the coco levy funds from private interests, and hold these in trust for the welfare of coconut farmers and the coconut local industry. CONGRESS / MCAG