Robredo opposes lowering the age of criminal liability from 15 to 9 years old

It’s okay the way things are with the present age criminal accountability. This was the opinion VP Leni Robredo gave about the issue on whether to lower the age of criminal accountability from 15 to 9 years old.

She was firm about going against any move to lower the age limit. “Kokontra ako kapag merong moves na babaan ito (I will oppose moves to lower it),” she said a day after the 17th Congress commenced—and after House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez urged the passage of three bills which comprised the priority measures of the PDP Laban and the Duterte administration.

The other priorities are federalism and re-imposing the death penalty.

Robredo explained her position: “Isa ako doon sa mga sumulong ng Juvenile Justice Law (I was one of those who militated for the Juvenile Justice Law) and I think (the) criminal liability under the law is sufficient.”

She assured that the current age for crime accountability was thoroughly deliberated on in Congress before its passage into a law.

Having been one of those who supported the passage of the bill, she felt obligated to stand by it. Besides, she found no cause to further lower the age when a child can be liable to be answerable for a committed crime.

“Pinag-isipan ito nang matagal. Hindi naman ito something na ipinili lang natin randomly out of the numbers. Maraming dahilan kung bakit ito ‘yung age of criminal liability, (This was studied a long time. This was not something randomly chosen out of many. There are many valid reasons why this age limit was decided on)”,   Robredo said.

Alvarez and Rep. Fredenil Castro of Capiz filed House Bill 002 seeking to return the minimum age of criminal accountability to nine years old. They claim that doing this will be a deterrent against using minors in crime by criminal syndicates. The lawmakers believe that kids 9 years old and above are “already fully informed” about the crimes they are to engage in, because of information technology.

But Robredo found this alarming especially when there are moves to re-impose the death penalty.

“Nakakatakot ‘yung sitwasyon, na halimbawa ibalik ‘yung death penalty, tapos i-lower pa ‘yung age of criminal liability. Nakakatakot na meron tayong mga bata na ise-sentence to death (It’s a scary situation—the death penalty and lowering the age of criminal accountability working together. It’s terrifying to have kids sentenced to death),” Robredo said alarmingly.

Robredo is also openly against the revival of the death penalty, and she was confident the Duterte administration would respect her opinion.


UNICEF emphasizes detrimental effect on kids

According to the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), lowering the age of criminal liability will have ill-effects on the well-being of the kids as it “goes against the best interests of the child and threatens the well-being of the most vulnerable children.”

“An effective juvenile justice system puts the rights and welfare of the child at its heart. It seeks to understand how a child develops and tackles the underlying reasons why they commit crimes. It recognizes the detrimental effects of incarceration on children,” UNICEF said in a statement released on Monday, found here.

UNICEF also noted how research shows that brain function only reaches maturity at around 16 years old, although kids exposed to violence and dysfunctional families usually deal with ‘toxic stress that ruins their brain’s architecture.

Its statement also brought the focus to the harms of putting kids in jail, including damage to their overall development and the increased risk of repeat offense due to the stigma of being tagged as criminals.

UNCEF called on to treat children with a “sense of dignity and self-worth” and for the Philippines to “create an environment where the youth will acquire non-criminal attitudes.”

The organization reminded the government of being a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, even providing this link.

UNICEF also noted how much progress the Philippines has done where juvenile justice and welfare system is concerned since the signing of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act a decade ago.

UNICEF warned about how penalizing the children is actually neglecting their rights and welfare.

“If children who have been exploited by criminal syndicates are penalized instead of the adults who had abused them, we fail to uphold the rights and well-being of children. If we fail to understand the underlying reasons why they commit crimes, we fail children,” UNICEF said.


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