I vote “No” to House Bill No. 8858, as amended. The reduction of the threshold on the minimum age of criminal responsibility from the present 15 years of age to 12 years, instead of 9 years as originally proposed, is still anti-child for the following reasons:
Neuroscientific research documents that the brains of children do not fully develop until their early 20s. Consequently, children between the ages of 12 and 15 do not have complete faculties for discernment to justify their criminal culpability.
If children in this age bracket cannot vote, run for Sangguniang Kabataan positions, get married or secure a driver’s license, then why suffer them to be confined, detained, jailed and charged with a crime?
Lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility will not result in lower crime rates. Data show that children commit only 1.72% of reported crimes and most of them are poverty-induced crimes like theft. Poverty is the problem which must be addressed and solved.
Lowering the age of criminal responsibility will just encourage criminal syndicates to use even younger children. What should be done is not to sanction children but to have a more intensified campaign against criminal syndicates exploiting children and treble the penalty imposable on them.
The present Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 must be fully implemented with the assurance of adequate funding for non-penal institutions and programs for children in conflict with the law.
We must not expose children to the adversities and hazards of prosecutory and judicial processes just because government has failed to implement the juvenile justice law.
Due to lack of funding for the creation and operation nationwide of the “Bahay Pag-asa”, children in conflict with the law are bound to be confined in jail-like facilities. No prison is fit for a child.
Only five “Bahay Pag-asa” units are accredited by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council (JJWC) for being compliant with prescribed standards.
There is no new appropriation for the creation and maintenance of “Bahay Pag-asa” in the proposed 2019 national budget.
Finally, the blitzkrieg introduction straight to the Plenary on 23 January 2019 of the so-called “Amendment by Substitution” is procedurally flawed because it was not presented to and approved by the Committee on Justice, the sponsoring committee. The committee system was patently derogated.
EDCEL C. LAGMAN