Criminal liability age may be lowered to 12

Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - June 8, 2016 - 12:00am

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – President-elect Rodrigo Duterte will ask Congress to lower the age of criminal responsibility following reports that criminal gangs are using children to peddle illegal drugs.

The measure lowering the minimum age for criminal responsibility is among the priorities of the incoming administration, Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, Duterte’s choice as the next House speaker, said yesterday.

Alvarez did not say, though, what the minimum age of responsibility in the proposed legislation will be.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said he is in favor of lowering the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12.

“The bill will just bring back (the age of criminal responsibility) to 12. It used to be nine years old. And everybody was in favor of 12,” Belmonte said in a chance interview.

Belmonte said Sen. Francis Pangilinan raised the minimum age to 15 when the amendments to the Juvenile Justice System and Welfare Act were being tackled in 2013.

“Nobody seemed to notice. And later on, all of us were asking why did it become 15? Why not 12?” Belmonte said.

“I think I would go 100 percent to go back to 12, not nine,” he added.

The proposed bill seeks to amend Republic Act No. 10630, which amended the Juvenile Justice System and Welfare Act of 2006.

Under the law, a child 15 years old or below at the time of the commission of the crime shall be exempt from criminal liability. The offender, however, will undergo an intervention program designed by the government.

Critics said drug rings are taking advantage of the current law and are using children as couriers because they would only be sent to a reform facility if they get caught.

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