MANILA - Malacañang on Monday said parents of children in conflict with the law must be punished for letting their offspring go astray, as Congress again revived deliberations on the lowering of minimum age of criminal liability.
“From the point of view of the President, the parents should be made liable for neglecting their children or they allow their children to be used for criminal activities,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a Palace press briefing.
“They can be jailed or be deprived of parental custody.”
Panelo issued this opinion after the House justice committee approved on Monday a bill seeking to lower the age of criminal liability to 9 years old.
House Bill No. 505 filed by Tarlac 2nd District Rep. Victor Yap seeks to set the minimum age of criminal liability to 9 years old from the current 15 years old.
Duterte is seeking the lowering of minimum age of criminal liability, saying the current law shielding minors of certain ages from criminal prosecution has produced a “generation of criminals.”
Under Republic Act 9344, sometimes referred to as the Pangilinan Law after its author Senator Francis Pangilinan, a child 15 years of age or under at the time of the offense shall be exempt from criminal liability. However, the child shall be subjected to an "intervention program."
Panelo said the government believes that lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility is “geared towards the protection of minors” because it will deter criminal groups from using minors as crime accessories.
“The theory of the president is this: The present criminals are the very minors that were used by the criminals. The present criminals, in other word, they grew up being used to crimes, because in the past they were always released,” he said.
He said the Palace is nonetheless leaving it to Congress to debate on the proposed measure, noting that the President himself has not indicated a particular age which should be set as the minimum age of criminal liability.
This early, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) already opposes the measure.
"We stress the government’s obligation to protect our children, in line with the commitment we accepted when we signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child," the CHR said in a statement Monday.
"Our Constitution is also explicit that children should be protected from all forms of neglect, abuse, cruelty, exploitation, and other conditions prejudicial to their development," it added.
Last year, Senate President Vicente Sotto III filed a bill seeking to lower the age of criminal responsibility to 13 "to adapt to changing times."
Pangilinan, for his part, said “going after minors is a convenient way of allowing criminal syndicates and corrupt government officials and elements of the PNP (Philippine National Police) to get off the hook while making it appear that government is strong on crime.”
“How is this different from the current drug war where the small-time and the powerless are persecuted and killed while government officers, drug lords, and syndicates who allowed billion pesos worth of shabu out of Customs are not arrested or prosecuted?”