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http://www.jjcicsi.org.ph/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/IQF-Vol-III-No-2-MACR.

pdf

https://www.pap.org.ph/includes/view/default/uploads/pap_position_paper_on_juvenile_justice_law_
110812.pdf

http://pps.org.ph/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/POSITION-PAPER-ON-THE-AMENDMENT-TO-THE-
JUVENILE-JUSTICE-AND-WELFARE-ACT-HB002.pdf

https://erdafoundation.files.wordpress.com/2016/07/payo-and-crn-position-paper-macr-july-15.pdf

http://educo.org.ph/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/BNC-Position-Paper_English.pdf
http://www.rappler.com/nation/152587-dswd-chief-lower-age-criminal-responsibility-anti-poor

DSWD chief: Lower age


of criminal liability 'anti-
poor,' won't curb crime
Pro-child advocates say the proposal treats children in conflict with the law as
criminals, not victims

Mara Cepeda
@maracepeda

Published 5:46 PM, November 16, 2016

Updated 5:46 PM, November 16, 2016

CHILDREN IN CONFLICT WITH THE LAW. Some lawmakers want the age criminal responsibility
lowered but social workers and pro-child groups oppose the proposal.

MANILA, Philippines Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo on Wednesday,


November 16, tagged as "anti-poor" the proposal to lower the minimum age of
criminal responsibility to 9 years old.

Taguiwalo, along with Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Chito


Gascon and non-governmental organizations, opposed the proposal to lower the
minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 9 years old during the hearing
of the House justice subcommittee on correctional reforms.

Lawmakers, including Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, have filed several bills


seeking to revert the effects of Republic Act (RA) Number 9344 or the Juvenile
Delinquency Act of 2006, which raised the minimum age of criminal liability from
9 years to 15 years old.
"Lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility is anti-poor," Taguiwalo
said in her position paper presented by social welfare officials who attended the
hearing.

She cited data that a "greater majority" of children in conflict with the law
(CICL) "come from lower-income families where parents are either unemployed
and/or where a greater number of siblings result in even lesser per-capita
resources."

Taguiwalo also said that lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility "has
never resulted in lower crime rates."

"The Philippine experience, and the experience of other countries attest to this
fact," she said.

Social protection for children

In their position papers submitted to the House panel, Taguiwalo and Gascon
said the proposed measures violate the fundamental principles of social
protection for children.

Gascon said that "the principle of protecting a child's well-being and development
is entwined with that of their best interest."

"It encompasses the need for addtional measures and protections due to a
child's vulnerability and the duty of the State to provide this protection as
enshrined under our Constitution, our domestic laws, and in various international
human rights instruments specifically in the UN Convention of the Rights of the
Child," he said.

"We affirm our previous stance that lowering the minimum age of MACR
(minimum age of criminal responsibility) oversimplifies the nature of juvenile
offending and violates the principles of child protection and welfare as provided
for by laws, international treaties, and internationally-accepted standards,"
Gascon added.

In defense of his proposal, Alvarez earlier argued that it would rehabilitate


juvenile offenders and not jail them with hardened criminals. He said the
measure aims to protect children from being used by syndicates to commit
crimes.
But Taguiwalo argued that the proposal "runs counter to available scientific
knowledge about the cognitive, psychosocial, and neurological development" of
children.

"A lower age of criminal responsibility results in more children being detained,
substantially higher cost of public expenditure, and an even higher social cost of
re-offending and graver offending, which simply demonstrates that such measure
is not cost-effecive," the social welfare chief said.

Victims, not criminals

For Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council exective director Tricia Clare Oco, the
proposed bills would damage CICL because they would be treated as
criminals instead of victims.

The proposal to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility will merely
revert to the cruel situation of locking up many children in poor and subhuman
facilities after they have been exploited and abused by syndicates, their parents
and other adults further victimizing them, Oco told the House panel.

Salinhali Alliance for Children's Concerns Secretary-General Kharlo Manano


agreed.

We should regard children as victims of state neglect and abandonment from


their right to survival and be protected, denied from them at one point of their
lives. They have been failed by society that now wants to brand them as
criminals, he said.

Meanwhile, Legal Rights and Development Center Chairperson Rowena Legaspi


said criminal syndicates' continued exploitation of children point to a failure in law
enforcement.

The failure of the system to go after syndicates reflects the weakness of the law
enforcers in implementing the law, said Legaspi.

It is our position that these children should be taken care of. The main issues
are the absence of their access to education, justice and health, she added.

Other pro-child groups and social workers lamented that the country only needs
the proper implementation of RA 9344, not its amendment. Rappler.com
Filed under:17th CongressCHRCICLChito GasconCommission on Human RightsDSWDDepartment
of Social Welfare and DevelopmentHouse committee on justiceHouse of RepresentativesJudy
TaguiwaloJuvenile Delinquency Act of 2006Juvenile Justice and Welfare CouncilKharlo
MananoLegal Rights and Development CenterLower HouseRA 9344Rowena LegaspiSalinhali
Alliance for Children's ConcernsTricia Clare Ocochildren in conflict with the lawchildren's
rightsminimum age of criminal responsibility
http://www.balayph.net/news-events/71-lowering-the-minimum-age-of-criminal-responsibility-a-short-
term-fix-to-long-term-problems

Lowering the Minimum Age of Criminal


Responsibility - A Short-term Fix to Long-term
Problems
Posted in News

A statement from Balay Rehabilitation Center

Like a number of advocates of children's rights, we at Balay, also believe that lowering the age of criminal
responsibility is not the solution to the problem we face with children being involved in criminal activities and
violence.

In this position paper, we would like to share our experiences in working in Bagong Silang, Caloocan City (Bagong
Silang hereafter) with our children and youth partners who, once or several times in their lives, have been involved
in illegal activities. We would like put across the message that lowering the age of criminal responsibility is a short-
term fix for a problem that requires long-term efforts. Likewise, we also believe that we need to transform popular
perception, especially for adults and law enforcement agencies, to the understanding that children and youths are
often victims rather than perpetrators. We also argue for the position that the spirit of the Juvenile Justice Law is
correct and wise, but is not fully utilized due to ineffective implementation and the lack of resources devoted to its
objectives.

Putting Youth and Criminality into Context

We cannot deny that some children are involved in various criminal activities and violent acts. However, in our
experience in working in Bagong Silang, we have learned the importance of putting these occurrences in their
proper context. We believe that, more than their personal tendencies, some children are predisposed to get involved
in criminal activities and violence due to their social milieu. To put it in simple terms, it is hunger, lack of education
and dysfunctional families (to name a few factors) that put children in a position that increases their tendencies of
getting involved in, say, robbery or substance abuse. Having said this, we in Balay believe in the saying that, "No
one is born a thief, a murderer, a drug addict or a criminal". It is hunger and extreme poverty that pushes them to
hijack a jeep and rob its passengers of their possessions; it is dysfunctional families that lead them to be dependent
on alcohol or illegal drugs; it is the lack of education and opportunities that push them to look for "easy money". As
we have learned from our children and youth partners in Bagong Silang, it is the adverse life conditions that increase
their vulnerability. These adverse life conditions are very apparent in Bagong Silang where six out of ten households
are under the poverty threshold; where nearly five out of ten individuals eligible for work are unemployed; and,
individuals stop their schooling around first year high school.

It is therefore imperative that our government address these long-term socio-economic issues if we are to solve the
phenomenon of children in conflict with the law instead of putting the blame back on children by lowering the
minimum age of criminal liability.

Perception and Actual Levels of Violence


As said earlier, children getting involved in crime and violence are clear and present. We often see these incidents
being showcased in media reports, but, up to what extent? Let us present some empirical data about children's
involvement in violence based on a research Balay did in 2010 (see notes below).

When asked about whom residents think are the most frequent perpetrators of violence and trouble in their locality,
more than two-thirds of the respondents said that it was children. However, contrary to popular perception, less than
a third of the violent acts documented by the survey were perpetrated by children; in fact, most of the violent acts
were committed by adults.

Moreover, most of the victims of violence were young people who are often unemployed, under-schooled and poor.
In this sense, children suffer a double-vulnerability. First, more than perpetrators of violent acts, children are victims
of violence perpetrated by adults. Second, children suffer from the stigma of being the "usual suspects" whenever
violent episodes or criminal activity occurs in an area. Based on Balay's experience, the stigma suffered by children
of being the "usual suspects" adds to the risk of suffering from indiscriminate acts of violence, especially from
agents of the state.

In the end, the results of the survey clearly present us a picture that runs against popular belief, that is, children are
victims more than they are perpetrators of violence.

Implementation of the Juvenile Justice Law

We believe that the spirit of the Juvenile Justice Law is correct and wise. Like any other law in the Philippines, the
problem is implementation and resources. In our experience in working with the Barangay in Bagong Silang, we
observed that social workers and staffs working with CICLs are often over-loaded, under-paid and lack the
supporting resources (i.e. shelter houses, vehicles and budget for visitations) to effectively implement the program.

To illustrate: often, social workers of the Barangay are confronted with cases of youth offenders that require
"specialized" services (i.e. the youth offender needs to be admitted to a shelter house) but are forced to do no more
than to return them to their households and invite them for weekly counselling sessions. Making things worse is the
fact that once they return the children to their households, they are faced again with the same problems and
conditions that led them to get involved in criminal or violent activities on the first place. The social workers and
staffs of the Barangay have the best intentions for the children of Bagong Silang. As they would often say, they have
a "big heart" for children and youths. However, "heart" could only get you so far if you do not have the resources
and infrastructure to implement your program.

Having said these, lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility is clearly not the solution; what we need are
more social workers, increased spending for the implementation of the law and the infrastructure (i.e. shelter houses)
to effectively run the program.

Transformation: Giving Young People a Second Chance

Lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility will not be beneficial; especially for the young people.
Moreover, it seems that the proposed amendment of lowering the age of criminal responsibility puts the blame back
on children. In our organization, we believe that, again, "No one is born a thief, a murderer, a drug addict or a
criminal". More than any other factor, we believe that it is the social milieu of children that lead them to a life of
violence and criminality. It seems that the proposed amendment to the law is a short-term fix to a problem that
requires a long-term solution; an amendment that move towards punishing instead of transforming children (which
goes against the spirit of the law and the principle of restorative justice); an amendment that moves to shun away the
young and misunderstood to a range of opportunities in life instead of non-judgement, understanding and giving
them second chances.

We do not however believe that children who have committed offenses should be free from any liabilities. There is a
proper process to be followed for child offenders and that is not putting them behind bars but undergoing a judicial
process where restorative justice is the framework. Our experience have shown a perspective where it is possible to
transform children and youths who are branded as violent, criminal and, as the proposed amendment suggests,
hopeless without putting them behind bars.

Notes:

Back in 2010, Balay Rehabilitation Center undertook a research project which aims to measure the level of violence
in Bagong Silang using a victimization survey. The study was in partnership with the Danish Research and
Rehabilitation Center for Torture Victims (RCT). In the study, Balay interviewed 400 randomly selected households
in Bagong Silang. The survey asked for (a) basic demographic information, (b) perceptions about violence and
experience of violence for the past two years, and (c) what people do to seek redress. Of special interest in the
survey is the involvement of children and youths in violence.
http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Nation&title=unicef-opposes-bill-on-lowering-
minimum-age-for-criminal-liability&id=136626

UNICEF opposes bill on lowering


minimum age for criminal liability

Posted on November 21, 2016

THE United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) said it opposes a priority bill seeking
to lower the minimum age of criminal liability, as it cited the Philippines
obligation as a UN member in implementing a comprehensive juvenile justice
policy.
In a position paper, the UNICEF said [t]he Philippine governments commitment to the most widely
ratified international human rights instrument is being addressed by the implementation of the
Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, as amended.

In 2006, the proposed Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act was enacted into law (Republic Act No. 9344),
raising the minimum age of criminal liability to 15 years old.

Ten years since, a move to revert the minimum age of liability to nine years old has gained ground, as
led by House Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez, saying the current law had the opposite effect of youthful
offenders who commit crimes knowing that they can get away with it.

In the explanatory note of the House Bill No. 02 or the proposed Minimum Age of Criminal
Responsibility Act, filed by Mr. Alvarez on the first day of President Rodrigo R. Dutertes
administration, he said adult criminals... knowingly and purposely make use of the youth below 15
years of age to commit crimes, such as drug trafficking, aware that they cannot be held criminally
liable.

But the UNICEF said reverting the minimum age of criminal liability will be retrogression on the part
of the Philippine government.

In the region, lesser developed countries such as Laos and Timor Leste which have lesser financial
and human resources have pegged their minimum age of criminal age of responsibility to 15 and 16,
respectively, the UN body said in its report.

UNICEF further noted these countries still thrive to strengthen these laws by providing for additional
programs such as mediation, mobile legal clinics, diversion and other alternatives to detention.

The organization said 15 years old as the minimum age is more appropriate to the emotional, mental
and intellectual maturity of a child, adding that it is a legal tool giving the government the
responsibility to prevent juveniles from coming into conflict with the law, and placing them in the
adult-oriented world of criminal justice system.
Government is strongly recommended to support the current version of the Juvenile Justice and
Welfare Act for not only is it credited for being compliant with international standards, but it still seeks
to instill in the child the concept of responsibility, UNICEF said.

The House sub-committee on correctional reforms began public consultations on the measure last
Wednesday, with the Social Welfare department strongly opposing it, saying the measure violates
the fundamental principles of social protection of children.

Mr. Alvarez said last week that his chamber aims to pass the measure, along with the death penalty
bill, on third and final reading before the Christmas break.
http://www.manilatimes.net/no-lower-minimum-age-criminal-liability/296881/

No to lower minimum age of criminal


liability
0

BY ANGELICA BALLESTEROS, TMT ON NOVEMBER 16, 2016NATION

Tweet
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Commission on
Human Rights (CHR) on Wednesday opposed congressional bills seeking to lower the
minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) from 15 years old to nine.

In a position paper sent by DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo to Reynaldo Umali, the
chairman of the House Committee on Justice, she said House Bill 935 and HB 3973 are
anti-poor and will never result in lower crime rates.

There is a need to distinguish between making children responsible for their actions and
criminalizing them, Taguiwalos position paper read.

Lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility runs counter to available scientific
knowledge about the cognitive, psychosocial and neurological development of children,
she said.

Such intention, according to the Social Welfare secretary, would only result in more
detained children, and will not be cost-effective since a higher public expenditure would
have to be invested for detention.

She said the age issue is anti-poor because a larger number of children in conflict with the
law comes from poor families where parents are either unemployed and where a greater
number of siblings result in even lesser per-capita resources.

Taguiwalo noted that the two House bills violate the fundamental principles of social
protection of children as provided by law.

HB 935 was filed by Navotas City (Metro Manila) Rep. Tobias Tiangco while HB 3973 was
filed by Nueva Ecija Rep. Estrella Suansing.

Meanwhile, officials of the CHR headed by Chairman Jose Luis Gascon, in a separate
position paper, opposed HB 2 filed by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Capiz Rep.
Fredenil Castro.

The CHR said lowering the MACR oversimplifies the nature of juvenile offending and
violates the fundamental principles of child protection and welfare.
We cannot overstress that juvenile offending will not be resolved by simply lowering the
MACR, the paper read.

According to the CHR, detaining young offenders would harm children rather than do them
good.

If the real intention of the legislators is to stop syndicates from using children to
consummate their evil deeds, then focus should be directed on prosecuting the real
perpetrators and ensuring that they suffer the highest degree of penalty provided for under
our laws, it said.

The commission, instead, recommended that the government focus on implementation of


the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act to ensure that the young offenders would be rehabilitated.

Rather than pushing for a new law that would put children in detention, the CHR said
lawmakers should also focus on funding the construction of Bahay Pag-asa (House of
Hope) facilities in every city, as well as the employment of medical doctors, social workers,
teachers and psychologists who will serve in the facilities.

It added that law enforcers should step up the campaign against syndicates that continue to
use children to commit crime.
https://thedailyguardian.net/banner-news/rdc-6-opposes-lower-age-criminal-liability/

RDC-6 opposes lower age for criminal


liability
Banner News, Local News March 9, 2017 Maricyn A. De los Santos

THE SOCIAL Development Committee (SDC) of the Regional Development Council (RDC-6)
opposes the proposal in Congress to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR)
from 15 to 9 years old.
This, after the body heard the position paper of the Regional Juvenile Justice and Welfare
Council (RJJWC) presented by Katherine Lamprea.
Echoing the points highlighted in RJJWC position paper, RDC noted the following reasons why
the minimum age of criminal liability must not be approved as it will not stop children from
involvement in crimes:

It will not help reduce the crime rate in the Philippines since adults commit more (around 98%) of
crimes reported in the country;
It will not protect or help children, as it is against the best interest of the child and will further re-
victimize them;
It costly and burdensome to the government;
It ignores scientific proof on childrens brain development;
It is against our legal obligations as a State Party to the UN Convention on the Rights of the
Child;
It is unconstitutional; and
It is not the solution to the problem.
Instead, the RDC-SDC said the government should address the gaps and ensure the full
implementation of Republic Act 9344 (Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act) as amended by RA
10630.
SDC is expected to endorse the resolution of support for the campaign against the Minimum Age
of Criminal Responsibility Act to the RDC on Mar. 30, 2017.
It also signed the 1M signature campaign I say no to lowering of MACR.
The Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility Act is being pushed by Speaker Pantaleon
Alvarez, the same lawmaker who pushed for the immediate passage of House Bill 4727, which
seeks to revive the death penalty.
RDC-6 is chaired by NEDA-6 regional director Ro-Ann Bacal.
http://www.accralaw.com/publications/state-vs-child-lowering-age-criminal-responsibility

http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Opinion&title=state-vs-child-lowering-the-age-of-
criminal-responsibility&id=132068

One of the legislative priorities of the Duterte


administration is the amendment of the Juvenile RELATED STORIES
Justice & Welfare Act or RA No. 9344 by lowering of
the age of criminal responsibility. Significantly, House
Bill No. 2 or the Minimum Age of Criminal
Responsibility Act, which seeks to revert the
minimum age of criminal responsibility from fifteen
Amicus Curiae -- Felice Suzanne
(15) years of age to nine (9) years of age, was
D. Soria: "Raising the bar of
recently filed with the House of Representatives.
Corporate Governance"

Amicus Curiae -- Joanne O.


Macabagdal: "Local business tax:
A tool by the LGU to create its
own source of revenue or a
means of abuse?"

Amicus Curiae -- Angelmhina D.


Lencio: "Fake news and its legal
issues in the post-truth era"

Amicus Curiae -- Charlemagne P.


Chavez: "The Peoples Power in
the impeachment of elective
According to the authors of House Bill No. 2, the present law has officials"
resulted in the pampering of youth offenders who commit crimes
knowing they can get away with it.

To recall, the Revised Penal Code pegged the minimum age of


criminal responsibility at nine (9) years of age. In 2006, or more Amicus Curiae -- Diego Luis S.
than 70 years after the Revised Penal Code took effect, RA No. Santiago: "The question of
9344 was passed. Under RA No. 9344, [a] child fifteen (15) years psychological disorders in the
of age or under at the time of the commission of the offense shall workplace"
be exempt from criminal liability...[a] child above fifteen (15)
years but below eighteen (18) years of age shall likewise be
exempt from criminal liability... unless he/she acted with
discernment. The child exempted from criminal liability shall, however, be subjected to a government
intervention program.

The passage of RA No. 9344 was then considered a landmark legislation and a milestone in the
promotion of childrens rights, particularly rights of children in conflict with the law, as it also
established a comprehensive juvenile justice and welfare system.

In 2013, RA No. 9344 was amended by RA No. 10630 to penalize, among others, the exploitation of
children for the commission of crimes. Under Section 20-C of RA No. 10630, [a]ny person who, in the
commission of a crime, makes use, takes advantage of, or profits from the use of children, including
any person who abuses his/her authority over the child or who, with abuse of confidence, takes
advantage of the vulnerabilities of the child and shall induce, threaten or instigate the commission of
the crime, shall be imposed the penalty prescribed by law for the crime committed in its maximum
period.

Despite the criminalization of the exploitation of children and the imposition of the maximum penalty
for the crime on persons who employ children to commit crimes, however, calls to lower the age of
criminal responsibility continue as reports of children committing crimes increase. Some have
questioned the wisdom behind RA No. 9344, as amended, because crime syndicates allegedly
exploited the exemption from criminal liability accorded to children and employed children as
accomplices in the commission of crimes.

On the other hand, some groups oppose lowering the age of criminal responsibility claiming that such
will violate international law and treaties, which the Philippines is a signatory.

What legal matters need to be considered in this issue?

In crafting any legislation setting the minimum age of criminal responsibility and providing for a
juvenile justice system, lawmakers should uphold the Constitution, which declares that the State
shall promote and protect [the youths] physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social well-being
and that the State shall defend the right of children to assistance, including proper care and nutrition,
and special protection from all forms of neglect, abuse, cruelty, exploitation, and other conditions
prejudicial to their development.

In addition, lawmakers should also uphold the Philippines obligations under international laws and
treaties, which include, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), the United
Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice or Beijing Rules, the United
Nations Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency or the Riyadh Guidelines, United Nations
Rules for the Protection of Juvenile Deprived of Liberty, and the United Nations Guidelines for Action
on Children in the Criminal Justice System. Under the foregoing, the Philippines has committed itself
to take all appropriate measures to ensure that the child is protected against all forms of
discrimination or punishment on the basis of the status, activities, expressed opinions, or beliefs of the
childs parents, legal guardians, or family members.

Interestingly, though the UN Guidelines for Action on Children in the Criminal Justice System defines
juvenile as every person under the age of 18, it also states that the age limit below which it should
not be permitted to deprive a child of his or her liberty should be determined by law. Article 40 (3)
(a) of the UNCRC likewise states that States Parties shall seek to promote the establishment of laws,
procedures, authorities and institutions specifically applicable to children alleged as, accused of, or
recognized as having infringed the penal law, and, in particular, ... [t]he establishment of a minimum
age below which children shall be presumed not to have the capacity to infringe the penal law. Thus,
the establishment of the minimum age by which criminal responsibility attaches is left to the decision
of the respective States legislature.

To summarize, while the Philippines maintains the right to decrease the minimum age of criminal
responsibility in accordance with international legal parameters and imperatives, it should be mindful
of its implications on children in conflict with the law.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. This article is for general
informational and educational purposes only and not offered as and does not constitute legal advice or
legal opinion.

Majken Anika S. Gran is an Associate at the Litigation and Dispute Resolution Department of the
Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices (ACCRALAW).
http://cmfr-phil.org/in-context/lowering-the-age-of-criminal-liability-what-to-be-considered/

Lowering the Age of Criminal Liability:


What to Be Considered?
Posted by: cmfr
Posted on: July 22, 2016, 6:19 pm
Updated on: September 12, 2016, 3:28 pm

inShare

CMFR file photo.

AMONG THE first bills filed in the House of Representatives of the 17th Congress
was House Bill No. 002 of Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez and Capiz Rep.
Fredenil Castro to lower the age of criminal liability from 15 to nine. The measure, according
to Alvarez and Castro, will deter children from committing crimes. They argue that the
current law has pampered youth offenders who commit crimes because they know they
can get away with it.
Several groups, including legislators and childrens rights advocates, oppose the proposal.
Senator Francis Pangilinan, author of RA 9344, or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of
2006, said the government should not hastily implement laws that may affect the future of
children who may simply be lost and confused. Alvarez, on the other hand, maintained that
the bill would focus on rehabilitating children in conflict with the law.
Juvenile Justice in the Philippines
Prior to the passage of RA 9344, the Revised Penal Code exempted only those under nine
years of age from criminal liability. RA 9344 raised the age of criminal liability to 15. Those
above 15 but below 18 years old are also exempted from criminal prosecution but are
subject to rehabilitation programs, unless they are proven to be fully conscious of their acts
and therefore subject to appropriate proceedings.
In 2013, RA 10630, An Act Strengthening the Juvenile Justice System in the Philippines,
amended RA 9344, transferring the administration of the Juvenile Justice Welfare Council
and the implementation of the Act from the Department of Justice to the Department of
Social Welfare and Development. Moreover, RA 10630 mandates local government units to
establish child-care institutions called Bahay Pag-asa which should provide short-term
residential care for children in conflict with the law, who are above age 15 and below 18.
Alvarez and Castros HB 002 would restore the minimum age of criminal liability to nine.
Should this be passed, it will allow courts to convict minors involved in crimes aged nine to
18 if they are found to have full discernment at the time of the offense.
International Standards
Congress should consider legal as well as other implications that should be considered
before passing the bill.
For one, reverting to the former minimum age of criminal liability would conflict with
international standards. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)
of 1989, which the Philippines signed and ratified, defines a child as a person below the age
of 18. As a state party to the convention, the Philippines is obligated to increase the level of
protection for individuals under 18.
Other treaties on juvenile welfare to which the Philippines is a signatory include:

The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile
Justice, known as the Beijing Rules, which states that the minimum age of criminal
responsibility should not be fixed at too low an age level in consideration of the
emotional, mental, and intellectual maturity of the children.

The United Nations Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency, known as
the Riyadh Guidelines, which puts a primer on prevention and rehabilitation of
children in conflict with the law over punishment.
The UN Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty, which states
that the juvenile justice system should uphold the rights and safety of minors, and
that imprisonment should be used only as a last resort.

Death Penalty for Minors?


Some fear that passing a bill lowering the age of criminal liability along with a bill seeking to
reinstate death penalty (House Bill No. 001, which Alvarez and Castro also authored) might
lead to circumstances which would make the possible the execution of children as young as
nine.
Article 37 (a) of the UNCRC states that children should not be subjected to capital
punishment nor life imprisonment without the possibility of release. This provision is also
cited in Article 2 (b) of RA 9344.
Moreover, Section 59 of RA 9344 states that minors should be exempted from death
penalty, notwithstanding provisions from other laws. While HB 002 on lowering criminal
liability seeks to amend RA 9344, it will only amend Section 6 of the law, relating to the
minimum age of criminal responsibility. Unless Section 59 of RA 9344 is amended as well,
executing a child would be improbable.
The Bigger Picture
Lowering the age of criminal liability would be disadvantageous to the poor. Given the
current state of the justice system in the country, the bill risks victimizing the poor, among
whom most offending minors come from primarily because of need. These families means
barely cover their needs, let alone hiring a lawyer. While poverty is not an excuse to commit
crime, there ought to be a clear distinction between making the children responsible for their
acts and criminalizing them.
There is a bigger picture surrounding juvenile crime which is usually left out of the
discourse. The problem of children in conflict with the law is deeply rooted in the social ills
of the countryincreasing inequality paired with decreasing support for social services such
as healthcare and education. These problems will require more holistic and nuanced
solutions rather than simply lowering the age of criminal liability.