Senators divided on lowering age of criminal liability
MANILA, Philippines – Senators were divided over a House bill seeking to lower the minimum age of criminal liability from 15 to nine years old.
Senate President Pro Tempore
Ralph Recto said the proposal calls for “evidence-based” legislation.
“It should be grounded on facts, supported by studies. Not on whims, and unproven theories,” Recto said in a statement on Monday.
“We need to read the scholarship behind the proposed policy. In the absence of any, we may be legislating based on superstition,” he said.
In particular, Recto wanted to know the ‘science’ in pegging the age threshold at 9 years old.
“If a law is meant to remedy a problem, then what is the projected drop in the crime index that the desired policy will bring? Magbalangkas po tayo ng batas na base sa datos at hindi sa akala at haka-haka,” he added.
(Let us draft laws based on data and not mere theories).
Senator Nancy Binay, who is part of the majority bloc, strongly opposed the approved bill in the House.
“As a mother of 9-year old twins, alam ko na sa ganitong edad wala pa silang tamang kakayahan to decide kung ano ang tama at mali,” Binay said in a separate statement.
(I know that at that age, they are still unable to differentiate between right and wrong).
“Even though we are serious in stopping juvenile crime, lowering the age of criminal responsibility may not be the best way to save children who may have gone astray,” she added.
Binay urged fellow lawmakers to carefully study measures that would affect the development of children.
Opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan believes that going after minors was just a “convenient way of allowing criminal syndicates and corrupt government officials to get off the hook while making it appear that government is strong on crime.”
Pangilinan cited the information the Philippine National Police (PNP) submitted to the Senate when the Juvenile Justice Law was being amended in 2013.
According to PNP, he said minors involved in criminal activities were emboldened to do criminal acts because they were supposedly coddled and backed by criminal syndicates run by corrupt men in uniform or corrupt local/barangay officials.
He said the PNP also provided data which showed that only less than two percent of crimes nationwide were committed by minors.
“If this government wishes to end pervasive criminality, it should focus its efforts on going after the more than 98 percent rather than the less than 2 percent but then again it is easier to go after helpless minors than it is to go after powerful criminal syndicates backed by corrupt coddlers in government,” Pangilinan said.
Senator Richard Gordon, who is set to conduct a hearing on the issue as chairperson of the Senate committee on justice, and Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said they are keeping an open-mind on the issue.
“Quite frankly, I don’t see any reason why it can’t be nine but my wife says wag naman.I discussed it with my chidlren, wag naman,” Gordon said.
“Different ages have different interpretation so I’m keeping an open- mind,” he said.
Drilon said he would attend debates in the Senate before deciding whether or not to retain or amend the law.
“I’m open because I haven’t had the opportunity to participate in this debate as I was not in the Senate when this law was passed,” he said.
The bill lowering the age of criminal liability to nine years old was approved by the Committee on Justice at the House of Representatives./gsg