Lowering Criminal Liability to 9, in Talks in the Philippines
House Bill (HB) 8858 passed the third and final hearing in the House of Representatives in the Philippines, Monday, January 28. The bill aims to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility from the current 15 years old to 9 years old. The bill received strong opposition from lawmakers and children’s rights groups. However, at the last minute, a controversial provision was amended.They changed the minimum age to 12 instead of 9.
The issue of minimum age of criminal responsibility came into focus after a video of a junior high school student bullying another student inside the campus premises went viral on various sites. The video was captured at one of the most prestigious and exclusive schools in the Philippines. Famous personalities, celebrities, politicians and netizens started denouncing and giving reactions to the video, hence, garnering much attention that led to formal discussions.
The new bill drew flak from minority lawmakers as well as from the general public. It was said to be a ‘scapegoat‘ for the failing justice system in the Philippines and failure to properly implement the amended Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, which retains the minimum age of criminal liability at 15 but allows children as young as 12 to be detained in youth care facilities or Bahay Pag-asa only for serious crimes, such as rape, murder, and homicide, among others.
But with the new act, children as young as 12 may be jailed or shot dead if considered criminal suspects in the worst case scenario. Every schoolyard fight, bullying or stealing of candy by children will then be treated as a criminal act and students can be branded and charged with a criminal offense, thus, have a criminal record for life.
However, in some cases, children are being used by a bigger crime syndicate or group because minors can not be prosecuted. But the masterminds remain untouched or immune while the children are jailed. According to the reports from Reuters, “Between January 2011 and July 2016, 956 children aged six to 17 were “rescued nationwide from illegal drug activity,” according to PDEA. Opposition insists that the government should go after the drug lords and and not blame the children.
So imagine a 12-year old who’s caught committing crime and put behind bars. What future holds for him? No books, no food, no education. Just him, the bare walls and bigger and hardened criminals. What can he learn inside? The possibility of being bullied or beaten up is high. After few years or months of detention, the record of being criminal will stay with him his whole life. How will he start his life anew?
In the author’s humble opinion, it is not the crime of children that should be the focus. Children has to be provided with enough support, motivation and a venue to be educated and make good use of their time and enhance their potentials. After all, children learn from adults and the society they live in.
Let’s talk with aimtalk teachers:
- What can you say about 12 as the age limit for criminal responsibility?
- What do you think should be done to minors who are caught for criminal offense?
- What age do you think people should be legally held liable for their actions? Why?
amend(v): correct or make small changes to something that is written or spoken
premise(n): the buildings and lands that a shop, restaurant, company, school etc uses
go viral: spreads widely, especially on the internet or mobile phone
netizen(n): someone who uses the internet
denounce(v): express strong disapproval of someone or something, especially in public
garner(v): take or collect something, especially information or support
flack[flak] (n): strong criticism
scapegoat(n): someone who is blamed for something bad that happens, even if it is not their fault
juvenile(adj): relating to young people who are not yet adults
detain(v): officially prevent someone from leaving a place
immune(adj): specially protected from something unpleasant
detention(n): the state of being kept in prison