This file photo shows children sleeping outside a closed restaurant in Binondo, Manila.
The STAR/Michael De Guzman, File
House OKs bill lowering criminal responsibility to 12 on final reading
( - January 28, 2019 - 4:51pm

MANILA, Philippines (Update 1: 5:54 p.m.) — The House of Representatives on Monday approved on third and final reading the controversial bill that seeks to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility in the country.

The lower house — by a vote of 146-34-0 — passed House Bill 8858, which aims to bring down the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 years old to 12 years old. 

The bill breezed through the lower chamber less than a week after the measure was approved on second reading at the plenary.

Before voting on second reading last Wednesday, the House leadership revised the crime liability threshold to 12 years from the originally proposed nine. They also agreed to change the phrase “criminal responsibility” to “social responsibility.”

Under the controversial House bill, children as young as 12 years old who commit serious crimes with discernment would me mandatorily confined at Bahay Pag-asa centers — youth care facilities mandated by law to offer rehabilitation and intervention to children in conflict with the law.

The proponents of the measure insisted it was filed with the intention to reform children in conflict with the law and not to punish them, as well as protect them from being used by criminal syndicates.

But some lawmakers and groups — especially those advocating a more “restorative” handling of children in conflict with the law — stressed that “children are not little adults” and appealed for a strengthen implementation of the current juvenile justice law.

In the upper chamber, Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III filed a bill seeking to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility to “above 12 years old,” while Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon wants to lower the age to 12 years old. 

Sotto said the upper chamber would prioritize the passage of its version of the bill. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

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