TWO administration solons have expressed opposition to the approved substitute bill on lowering the minimum age of criminal liability.
Deputy Speaker and Taguig Rep. Pia Cayetano and Assistant Majority Leader Mikee Romero of 1-PACMAN party-list said they do not believe children at the young age of nine should be considered criminals.
Romero, in fact, has filed its own version but proposed the age of 12 instead of nine.
Approved by the House Committee on Justice, the unnumbered bill seeks to lower the age of criminal liability from the present 15 to nine, which based on reports were already being used by drug and criminal syndicates.
Cayetano stressed that children should be held accountable, but not criminally liable.
“Children as young as nine years old who come into conflict with the law should be held accountable for their actions, but not as criminal offenders,” Cayetano said.
“There should be accountability for young children in conflict with law, but not criminal prosecution, especially when the child is at a tender age of 9,” she added.
An advocate of the family and Filipino children, Cayetano sent a letter to express her position to the House Committee on Justice.
The Taguig City lawmaker said it would be “unconscionable to hold a child criminally liable when it is clear that it is their environment, home or community that exposed them to violence and other anti-social behavior.”
Cayetano is pushing for a substitute bill which would require children in conflict with the law “to undergo comprehensive rehabilitation through a range of options that would bring them on the right path.”
For his part, Romero said it is the parents who should have criminal liability and not under age offenders.
Romero said he will push for 12 years old as the just and appropriate minimum age when the bill reaches the plenary for further deliberation.
“Nine years old is simply too young to subject any child to arrest and other criminal procedures. That is DepEd Grade 3 age level. The child could be psychologically and emotionally scarred for life,” Romero said.
“We will be the laughing stock of the international community. We do not want to be in the lower extreme end of the worldwide spectrum on this. The yearning for justice must be tempered with moderation and compassion. This would be the prudent and solomonic path,” the solon added.