CITING the presence of juvenile delinquents who have been deliberately committing grave criminal offenses knowing they cannot be jailed and prosecuted due to a law which protects them, Philippine National Police chief Director General Oscar D. Albayalde yesterday aired the PNP’s full support for Senate President Vicente Sotto III’s bill seeking to lower the age of criminal responsibility to 13 years old.
“We’re fully supporting that proposal of the good Senator and are getting inputs from the different police regional offices and other units,” Gen. Albayalde told a press briefing at Camp Crame.
Gen. Albayalde said in other countries, kids as young as six years old can be made accountable for their criminal offenses.
Unlike here in the Philippines, police have no recourse but to transfer to the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development minors who are being apprehended for crime including illegal drug trafficking and abuse, theft and robbery, rape and even homicide.
Drug syndicates are also known for taking advantage of Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 that exempts children 15 years old and below from criminal liability and for Sen. Sotto, this is too high even for international standards.
Citing a study by the Child Rights International Network, Sotto pointed out the average minimum age of criminal responsibility in Asia and Africa is 11, and 13 in the United States and Europe.
“Due to the continuing challenge in the implementation of RA 9344, as amended, the aforesaid law must be further amended to lower the minimum age of criminal liability in order to adapt to the changing times,” Sotto said in his explanatory note for Senate Bill 2026.
“This bill will finally give clarity to the true intention of the law. The amendment to the law will institutionalize the criminal liability of teenagers who committed serious criminal offense,” the senator added.
Sotto said not only was the law abused by criminals but the innocence of the youth were deliberately taken from them.
Sotto cited several viral videos where children aged 15 and below were seen beating each other to death, dragging an old man out of a public utility vehicle to steal his purse, and taking the earnings of a jeepney driver.
Senate Bill 2026 amends Sections 6, 20, 20-A, 20-B and 22 of RA 9344, so that a child below 18 years of age but above 12 at the time of the commission of the crime will be held criminally liable and subjected to the appropriate proceedings, unless proven that he/she acted without discernment.