CITING the presence of juvenile delinquents who have been committing grave criminal offenses deliberately knowing they cannot be jailed and prosecuted due to a law which protects them, Philippine National Police chief, Director General Oscar D. Albayalde has aired the PNP’s full support to Senate President Vicente Sotto III’s bill lowering the age of criminal responsibility to 13 years old following a rise in the number of crimes committed by minors.
“We’re fully supporting that proposal of the good Senator and are getting inputs from the different police regional offices and other units,” the PNP chief told the Journal Group amid observations that almost every day, police in Metro Manila and other parts of the country have been arresting minors involved in crimes, both petty and major ones specifically robbery-holdup, mugging, drug trafficking and abuse and theft.
Gen. Albayalde said in other countries, kids as young as 6-years old can be made accountable for their criminal offenses. Here police have no recourse but to transfer to the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development minors apprehended for crime including illegal drug trafficking and abuse, theft and robbery, rape and even homicide.
Drug syndicates take advantage of Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 which 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 commit serious criminal offense,” he added.
He said the law was not only abused by criminals but the innocence of the youth was 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.
There are also several cases where minors are being used as pushers or runners of drug syndicates since they would not be held criminally liable under the law. Children caught for these crimes are released back into society where many of them become repeat offenders.
Senate Bill 2026 amends Sections 6, 20, 20-A, 20-B and 22 of RA 9344, as amended, so that a child below 18 years of age but above 12 at the time of the commission of the crime would be held criminally liable and subjected to appropriate proceedings, unless proven that he/she acted without discernment.
In cases where it is proven that a child acted without discernment, he/she would be exempted from criminal liability and shall be subjected to the appropriate intervention program under the law.
Under the bill, children above nine years old up to 12 years old who committed serious crimes such as parricide, murder, infanticide, kidnapping and homicide shall be deemed neglected children under Presidential Decree 603 or the Child and Youth Welfare Code, as amended, and shall be placed in a special facility within the youth care faculty or Bahay Pag-asa.