By Martin Sadongdong
The Philippine National Police (PNP) declared Monday its support for the passage of a House bill which seeks to lower the minimum age of criminal liability from 15 to nine years old.
PNP chief, Director General Oscar Albayalde cited the anti-illegal drug operation conducted by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Navotas City last Thursday, January 17, which resulted in the apprehension of 28 suspects, including a four-year-old girl and seven other minors aged 12 to 15.
“You could just imagine these [children] are being used already as drug runners. They are being exploited by the elder suspects because they knew these children wouldn’t be jailed,” Albayalde said.
He issued the statement just as the House committee on justice approved Monday the substitute bill related to the matter.
Albayalde also pointed out several cases of rape and physical injury wherein the ones involved are minor suspects.
“I think we are inclined to support this bill,” he said.
According to the latest available data from the PNP, a total of 5,709 cases involving minor offenders were recorded across the country from January to August 2018.
The most prevalent crimes involving minors were reckless imprudence, resulting to damage to property with 825 cases; theft with 603 cases; reckless imprudence resulting to physical injury with 599 cases; robbery with 508 cases and drugs with 507 cases.
Also with notably high records were physical injury with 364 cases; sexual abuse with 307 cases; rape with 293 cases and oral defamation with 211 cases.
The PNP Chief said heavier punishment should be meted on the parents of minor offenders since they are the ones responsible in disciplining their children.
However, some lawmakers and cause-oriented groups opposed the passage of the bill saying it would expose the minor offenders to harsher environment inside the jail.
According to opposition groups, what was needed was for the concerned government agencies to strengthen the implementation of the Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice Law of 2006, which sets the minimum age of criminal liability at 15 years old.