MANILA—Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri on Saturday said the age of criminal liability approved by the House this week is “a bit too young,” amid a proposal in both chambers to lower it from 15 years old.
The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a bill lowering the age of criminal of liability to 12 years old, instead of 9 as originally proposed.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) said Friday it was inclined to support the proposal to lower the age of criminal liability to 12, citing a spike in criminal involvement of minors at that age.
Zubiri, however, suggested to lower it to 13 years old, which he said is when a child hits puberty.
“Thirteen kasi nag-start na ‘yung puberty na ‘yan so may pag-iisip na po ang 13 years old,” he told radio DWIZ.
(At the age of 13, he or she starts undergoing puberty, therefore giving them the ability to discern.)
Zubiri said the proposal to lower the age of criminal liability should be studied carefully as crime syndicates could use younger children to commit crimes.
“Wise sila (syndicates) napakatalino nila ang ginagawa nila, [ang] talagang ang gumagawa ng kanilang pagnanakaw . . . ang mga kabataan kasi alam nilang makakalusot ang mga ito,” he said.
(These syndicates can be pretty clever. They use younger kids for petty crimes, because they know that children wouldn’t be criminally liable.)
Zubiri maintained that children in conflict with the law should not be mixed in with regular inmates and instead be housed in Bahay Pag-asa reformation centers.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, meanwhile, said the measure should instead focus on implementation.
“Based on our hearings, I am convinced that there is nothing wrong with the current law or Republic Act 9344. The problems lie in the implementation of the law and that is what the amendments should focus on,” Drilon said in an interview with radio DZRH.
“Before we amend the law, let’s give the current law a chance. With the stricter implementation and monitoring of the law, we can achieve the goal that we set in the law.”
Drilon said he would put an amendment in the 2019 budget during the bicameral hearing to provide funds for Bahay Pag-asa.
The move to lower the age of criminal liability sparked outrage by rights groups and members of the opposition, questioning the feasibility and quality of reformation centers to house children in conflict of the law.