Lone city dad favors lowering age of criminal liability to 9 years

By Juan Escandor Jr. NAGA CITY---Except for one councilor who was not present and on an official business during the regular session of city council here, only one councilor stands to support the lowering of the minimum age of criminal liability to 9 years old from 15 years old which is pending bill deliberations in Congress. Councilor Salvador Del Castillo, during the deliberation of the proposed resolution that opposes the move in Congress to lower the age of criminal liability to 9 years old, expressed his stand against the city council’s resolution because “children are being used by criminals in committing crimes.” Del Castillo told his colleagues that his name must not be included among those who approved the resolution that opposes the lowering of the minimum age of criminal liability to 9 years old. In the regular session on Tuesday (March 28), the Naga City council approved a resolution that opposed the lowering of criminal liability to 9 years old through the House Bill No. 002. Councilor Elmer S. Baldemoro, the sponsor of the council resolution, in his privilege speech, assailed House Bill No. 002 that seeks to amend Republic Act 9344 or The Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 that sets the minimum age of criminal liability to 15 years old. Baldemoro said House Bill No. 002 proponents---Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Davao Del Norte first district Rep. Fredenil H. Castro---wanted to amend RA 9344 to lower the minimum age of criminal liability to 9 years old from 15 years old on the belief that “the present law has resulted in the pampering of child offenders who commit crimes knowing they can get away with it.” But he said the proponents of House Bill No. 002 “failed to remember that the Republic of the Philippines is a signatory in the United Convention of the Rights of the Child.” “Our lawmakers should therefore uphold our country’s commitment under this international treaty and to other international laws and agreements,” Baldemoro said. He cited the United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juvenile Deprived of Liberty, the United Nations Guidelines for Action on Children in the Criminal Justice System, and the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice, among others that must be upheld by the Philippines. “It is understood that the Revised Penal Code pegged the minimum age of criminal responsibility at 9 years old of age. But in 2006, or more than 70 years after the Revised Penal Code took effect, Republic Act 9344 was passed,” Baldemore said. He said that under RA 9344, a child 15 years old of age or under at the time of the commission of the offense shall be exempt from criminal liability and a child above 15 years but below 18 years of age shall likewise be exempted from criminal liability, unless he/she acted with discernment. Baldemoro said the Philippine lawmakers have the obligation to protect and promote the rights and welfare of children in which he said passing the House Bill 002 “is a direct violation of international laws and treaties in which the Philippines is a signatory.” He acknowledged that the state must ensure that the Filipino youth shall be taught to accept responsibility for their words and deeds as early as possible. But Baldemoro argued that the state must address the problem with children in conflict with the law through reformative, non-punitive, non-discriminating, welfare-based and education-oriented methods.