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Sotto wants to lower age of criminal responsibility to 13

Senate President Vicente Sotto III has filed a bill seeking to lower the age of criminal responsibility to 13 years old amid the number of crimes now being committed by minors.

In Senate Bill 2026 filed Monday, Sotto said that criminal syndicates are exploiting the provisions of Republic Act 9344 of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 by using minors in the commission of crimes.

“Due to the continuing challenge in the implementation of RA 9344, as amended, the aforesaid law must be further amended to lower the minimum age of criminal liability in order to adapt to the changing times,” he said in his explanatory note.

“Not only was the law abused by criminals but the innocence of these youngsters were deliberately taken from them,” he added.

Sotto said the bill will finally give clarity to the true intention of the law and the amendment will institutionalize the criminal liability of teenagers who commit serious criminal offense.

Told about Sotto’s proposal, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque maintained President Rodrigo Duterte’s position to bring down the age of criminal liability.

“As the spokesperson of the President that is the President’s position, that the Pangilinan law [RA 9344] contributed to the rise of criminality. And that’s why the House bill thus provide for measures to be taken against juvenile offenders, they will not getaway scot-free,” Roque said at a news conference.

RA 9344 exempts children 15 years old and below from criminal liability, which Sotto said is too high even based on international standards.

Citing a study conducted by the Child Rights International Network, Sotto pointed out that the average minimum age of criminal responsibility in Asia and Africa is 11. In the United States and Europe, it is 13.

Senate Bill 2026 amends Sections 6, 20, 20-A, 20-B and 22 of RA 9344, as amended so that a child below 18 years of age but above 12 at the time of the commission of the crime would be held criminally liable and subjected to the appropriate proceedings, unless proven that he/she acted without discernment.

In cases where it is proven that a child acted without discernment, he/she would be exempt from criminal liability and shall be subjected to the appropriate intervention program under the law.

Under the bill, for serious crimes such as parricide, murder, infanticide, kidnapping and homicide, if the children who committed these are above nine years old up to 12 years old, they shall be deemed neglected children under Presidential Decree 603 or the Child and Youth Welfare Code, as amended and shall be placed in a special facility within the youth care faculty or Bahay Pag-asa. — with Virgil Lopez/RSJ, GMA News