House children's welfare panel chair backs lowering criminal liability age
MANILA, Philippines – Zamboanga del Sur 1st District Representative Divina Grace Yu, the chairperson of the House committee on welfare of children, supports the proposal to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12 years old.
Yu announced her stand during the majority bloc's biweekly press conference on Monday, May 8.
"Personally I would be for the lowering of the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 12," said Yu, who was quick to clarify that the stand of the majority of her committee will trump her personal view.
"But as I've said, it's not my personal vote or my personal view that would matter. It is the committee on the welfare of children's. If the majority of the committee on welfare of children will say that this bill is detrimental for the children, then I would bring the voice of the majority of the committee not to favor the said bill," she added.
In the same press conference, ANAC-IP Representative Jose Panganiban Jr said he would rather the government impose stiffer penalties against crime syndicates and parents of children in conflict with the law.
"If ang issue natin is para ma-penalize ang mga bata, siguro sa akin personally, instead of lowering the age of criminal [responsibility] to 9 or 12 or none at all, siguro pabigatin na lang natin ang parusa sa magulang or sa kung sino ang gumamit sa mga bata," said Panganiban.
(If our issue is for the children to be penalized, for me personally, instead of lowering the age of criminal responsibility to 9 or 12 or none at all, perhaps we should just make the punishment worse for parents or whoever exploited the kids.)
He added that adults who would resort to using children must be punished for the crimes committed by the minors.
"Dapat 'yung parusa sa magulang ay isama sa kulungan 'yun. Kung ano 'yung crime na nagawa, 'yun ang crime ng magulang. Yes! Kasi ang responsibilidad, habang 'yung bata is below [legal age], is sa magulang," he said.
(The parents should be sent to prison as well. The crime committed by the child should be the crime committed by the parents, too. Yes! Because the responsibility for children below legal age still rests on the parents.)
The House sub-committee on correctional reforms is currently tackling the proposals to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility to either 9 or 12 years old. (READ: Congressmen seek compromise: 12 as age of criminal responsibility)
Proponents of the measure, like Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, believe it is the answer to the supposedly increasing number of children being used by syndicates to commit crimes. This was the same reasoning Yu cited to support her stand on the bill.
Children's rights advocates and psychologists, however, are against the measure, saying the issue goes beyond "simplistic understanding of discernment."
Lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility was part of President Rodrigo Duterte's legislative agenda, but the measure has been put on the "back burner" in the House following the filing of an impeachment complaint against the President. – Rappler.com