Feb 042013
The panels from the Senate and House of Representatives have yet to agree on what age should minors start having criminal liability.

In a text message to GMA News Online on Monday, Senate social justice, welfare, and rural development committee chair Sen. Francis Pangilinan said the bicameral conference committee is in a “deadlock” regarding the issue.

“Sa Senate kasi… 15 years old pa rin. We maintained 15 years old, although nilagyan natin ng mga mandatory involuntary confinement processes kapag serious ang offenses. Ang House gusto nila ibaba sa 12 at gusto nilang for all offenses. So ‘yun ang naging snag,” he said in an interview.

Under Republic Act 9344 or Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, a child who is 15 years old or below at the time of the commission of the offense shall be exempted from criminal liability but will be subjected to an “intervention program.”

With Senate Bill No. 3324, children 15 years old and below shall remain exempted from criminal liability but can face civil liabilities in accordance with existing laws.
Pangilinan, who authored RA 9344, said this should be the case since less than 15 percent of offenses committed by minors are serious offenses based on data from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

“Kung merong 15 percent na serious offenses, dapat hindi buong 100 ilalagay mo sa ganong klaseng katayuan. Dapat ihiwalay ‘yun,” he said.

He also said that 90 percent of the offenders are first timers. “So dapat din siguro medyo maging mabigyan ng pagkakataon ang lahat ng mga nagkakamali at hindi kaagad-agad paparusahan ng criminal liability.”

But he said there is a proposal that the age of criminal liability be lowered to 12 only for heinous offenses, which includes rape and murder. He noted that the liability is not automatic since it must be determined first if the minor acted with discernment or not.

“Yun ang pinag-uusapang propsoal pero hindi pa ito natatanggap ng House. Kung papayag sila we can have the bicam tomorrow,” he said.

In 2011, some senators led by Sen. Francis Escudero recommended lowering the age of criminal liability to nine years old. Pangilinan opposed it. — Kimberly Jane Tan/KBK, GMA News

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