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Central Board Room 200 MVP Student Leadership Center, Ateneo de Manila University

Statement on the Lowering of the Age of Criminal Liability to 12 (HB 6052)

On July 23, the Senate will be voting on the passage of House Bill 6052, which proposes to amend Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006. The main revision it proposed is to decrease the age of criminal liability from fifteen to twelve. The Sanggunian recognizes that the intent of the bill includes the promotion of accountability for heinous crimes, such as rape, homicide, and murder, which are specifically mentioned as acts which are assumed to be committed with discernment by those of the aforementioned ages. However, the Sanggunian foresees that the bill would have unintended consequences. Younger children who are victims of criminal syndicates would, in effect, take the blame for their susceptibility to exploitation of their innocence and unwanted circumstance. We, the Sanggunian Central Board, strongly believe that treating these young victims as adult offenders is not the solution to any problem that has been presented before the fifteenth congress. Currently, the law stipulates that minors who commit crimes are not absolved. Instead, they are faced with criminal liability and, if a child is found guilty, he is to serve his sentence once he turns of legal age. In the interim, the child will be put in rehabilitation centers. However, due to the fact that the provisions of RA 9344 are not fully implemented by the local government units, young children are instead brought to regular penitentiaries. With the culture and condition of prison life in the Philippines, serving sentence in jail will not rehabilitate these children. If any, the harsh environment of these correctional facilities will only harden a child in conflict with the law and make him more vulnerable to following his fellow detainees ways. Thus, the Sanggunian calls for the stricter and fuller implementation of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006. This would improve the effectivity of the juvenile rehabilitation institutions present in the country, and would ensure that those not yet of legal age would still receive proper guidance and counseling regarding criminal behavior. The HB 6052, more specifically the amended stipulation which will put more children behind bars, would not serve as a deterrent for young children from committing crimes at their young age, nor will it discourage syndicates to use children for their unlawful operations. Our government must not only seek to properly establish facilities that would help reinstate children in conflict with the law back to the society. It must also perform steps to counteract all motivations to do misdeeds. It must ensure that it provides the public it serves with basic social services, as we see that the scarcity of it is the prevalent cause for perpetrating crimes.