Naga chief cop favors lower age for minor criminals
By Juan Escandor Jr. NAGA CITY---Lowering the age of criminal liability to 9 years old now pending in Congress is fine with the top cop in this city, even as he said it is his personal stand. Senior Supt. Julius Muñez, Naga City police director, believes a 9-year-old kid already knows what is wrong and what is right which made them responsible of criminal acts they commit. Muñez said 30 percent of theft cases last year were committed by minors while criminal syndicates use children to commit crimes. Naga’s police director stand is contrary to the stand of a regional inter-agency group tasked to promote juvenile rights and welfare in Bicol which is against the lowering of the criminal liability of youth offenders to 9 years old from 15 years old. Assistant Regional Prosecutor Remiel O. Nibungco, a member of the Regional Juvenile Justice and Welfare Committee (RJJWC)-Bicol, said the general sentiments of the members of the RJJWC is to retain the present minimum age of criminal responsibility to 15 years old under the present law. Among the members of the RJJWC are representatives of the Department of Justice, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Interior and Local Government, Public Attorney’s Office, Commission on Human Rights, Department of Education, Department of Health, Philippine National Police, Bureau of Jail Management of Penology, and two representatives from non-government organizations. The JJWC is a policy-making, coordinating and monitoring body tasked with the implementation of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act (Republic Act. 9344) as amended by RA 10630. RA 9344 is the law that raised the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 9 years old to 15 years old and took effect on May 20, 2006 while R.A. 10630 further clarified the procedures, establishment of center for intensive juvenile intervention and provision on victim assistance and emphasis in the processes. Muñez said at present the police in Bicol concentrates on seven focused crimes including murder, homicide, robbery, theft, carnapping, “motornapping” and physical injury. In addition to seven focused crime, Bicol police had included rape in the list of priority crimes since the region has the highest recorded incidence of rape among the regions in the Philippines, he said. Muñez said that in Naga City alone, there were 32 rape cases recorded in 2015, 17 in 2016 and three from Jan.-Feb. this year. He said in 2016 the number of focused crime and rape cases recorded in the city has reached 2,430 incidents. But Muñez said that upon his assumption as police director of Naga City from July to Dec. 2016, the number of theft incidence decreased by 72 cases. Overall, he claimed, the focused crime incidence had decreased by 181 incidents upon his assumption to office. Muñez said in the first seven weeks of 2017, the Naga City police has recorded 217 incidents under the seven focused crimes. “If the trend continues, the Naga City police office will be able to lower the crime incidents in the city by almost one half at a projected 1,606 incidents at the end of 2017,” he said. But Muñez said he would not be able to finish the implementation of the police strategy of keeping the crime low in Naga City because of his pending assignment at the Camp Crame in May.