House subcommittee to approve bill lowering criminal liability age next week

MANILA — The House justice subcommittee on correctional reforms has re-scheduled to Tuesday next week its approval of the substitute bill seeking to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility to nine years old from 15.

The House subcommittee headed by Misamis Occidental Rep. Henry Oaminal was originally scheduled to put the priority measure of the Duterte administration to a vote on Wednesday, but the technical working group was not able to draw up the substitute bill in time for the hearing.

Kabayan Partylist Rep. Ron Salo, head of the TWG, asked for another week to thresh out and consolidate six bills that seek to amend the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006.

“As such, we respectfully beg the indulgence of the sub-committee that we were not able to finish crafting the substitute bill in time for today’s hearing. The TWG is then respectfully requesting for another week, or until Tuesday, to submit the substitute bill,” Salo said.

Oaminal approved the motion and set the next sub-committee hearing on Tuesday next week.

Salo said that after three meetings, the TWG agreed to rephrase the title and terminology in the bill as several resource persons and members of Congress opposed to branding these children in conflict with the law (CICLs) as “criminals”.

“Based on the meetings, one thing is very clear: everyone is in agreement that children in conflict with the law below 15 should be made accountable and responsible for their actions,” Salo said.

“Deputy Speaker Pia S. Cayetano proposed to rephrase the title so as not to label the CICLs as criminals but still make them accountable and responsible to their actions,” he added.

The TWG adopted her proposal for the title to read: ‘An Act Expanding the Scope of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare System and Strengthening the Social Reintegration Programs for Children in Conflict with the Law, Amending for the Purpose RA No. 9344, as Amended by RA No. 10630, otherwise known as Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006’.

Salo assured that the amendment still captures the intent of the bill’s author to make children “accountable and responsible for their actions and make them undergo the necessary rehabilitative measures and programs of the government.”

“All other provisions which shall empower the state to ensure that CICLs are rehabilitated and make them productive citizens of the country are being enhanced by the TWG,” Salo said.