By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
President Duterte said he is comfortable with the proposal of the House of Representatives to lower the minimum age of criminal liability from 15 years old to 12.
Duterte made the statement in ambush interview with Palace reporters, hours after the lower house approved on second reading the proposed bill which lowers the age of criminal liability. Lawmakers earlier proposed it be nine but this received mostly negative feedback.
According to Duterte, he wanted to restore the criminal age of liability to the original but said he is comfortable with the decision of the House of Representatives to lower the age from 15 to 12.
“If it’s the final decision… I’m comfortable with it. I’m comfortable with it. As long as… above 12, below 16, yung indeterminate sentence law lang (it would just be the indeterminate sentence law),” Duterte said.
“Binabalik ko yung (I want to revert to the) original. It was really above nine, below 12. Tapos (and then), above 12, below 16. Yun ang original, binabalik ko lang (That’s the original, I just want to restore it),” he added.
“Well, ang sabi ko ibalik na lang ninyo sa dati. Sabi ko, but kung ayaw ninyo and you want other… may trajectory kayo na iba, then it’s OK. Twelve ok na (I said revert to the original. But if they don’t want it and has other plans, then it’s OK. Twelve is fine with me),” he continued.
Currently, the Juvenile Justice or Welfare Act exempts children 15 years old and below from criminal liability. However, President Duterte has been repeatedly expressing that this measure is being abused by criminals who use minors to get away with their crimes.
House Speaker and former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said that lawmakers originally proposed the age of nine as the minimum age of criminal liability because it was what Duterte wanted. The President, during the interview, explained why he wanted it to be nine, originally.
“Kasi gusto ko at that age, pati ang (Because I want kids as early at that age, including the) parent, must be conscious of the criminal accountability already,” he reasoned out.
“Because they will be ultimately responsible. Sila yung tatamaan, eh (It will end up with them). Any violation of law ng bata ngayon at nagkulang yung supervision and vigilance ng parents, sila ang idedemanda (Any violation of the law by the child and the parent lacked supervision and vigilance, they will be the ones who will be charged),” he added.
“Because yung parang subsidiary liability ng parent. Automatic ‘yan. Ngayon sila ang huhulihin (Because it is like the subsidiary liability of the parent. That is automatic. Now, they will be arrested). So at an early age, they should start the discipline,” he continued.
Earlier, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that Duterte wanted to lower the minimum age of criminal liability to protect the children from criminals who want to take advantage of the law.
“From the point of view of the President, the law, presently, is being used by criminals to use the children. So to my mind he wants that amendment to protect the children,” he said.
“If you have a law that will criminalize this particular age bracket, hindi na gagamitin ng mga kriminal ‘yan kasi useless pala (criminals will not use them anymore because it would be useless). They’re using them now kasi alam nilang (because they know they are) free, they can get out,” he added.
Panelo, meanwhile, also agreed that parents should be held accountable for the crimes committed by their children who will be covered by the proposed measure.