MANILA – There will be no imprisonment imposed upon nine-year-olds who commit crimes, Malacañang assured Wednesday after the House of Representatives (HOR) justice panel approved a bill lowering the age of criminal liability from 15 to 9 years old.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this remark following strong criticism on the House proposal coming from various groups and individuals including UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Agnes Callamard who called the measure “dangerous” and “potentially deadly.”
Panelo explained that the House will also ensure that juveniles aged 10 to 17 years old who commit exclusive offenses will not be brought to prison facilities but youth care facilities.
“No penalty of imprisonment would be imposed upon children nine-years-old and below while those juveniles who are above nine-years old but below 18 years of age who commit any of the 10 exclusive offenses, such as murder or rape, would be brought to youth care facilities (not prison facilities) supervised by a multi-disciplinary team, which includes doctors, psychologists and social workers, among others,” Panelo said in a statement.
Panelo expressed confidence that in legislating such law, the House will ensure that due considerations on the protective rights of the child are weighed in.
Under the proposed law, Panelo said the maximum penalty for individuals and criminal syndicates found guilty of exploiting children to be youth offenders is reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment.
He lamented that critics and detractors of the Duterte administration continue to “drown” the legislative proposal without even having read it yet and ignore the reality that the measure is meant to benefit the youth.
“They simply have not read the provisions of the bill hence their opposition is based either on blissful ignorance or pretended misinformation. They are either unaware or ignore the reality that criminals have become smart as to use the present law in exploiting the children to assist them in committing their crimes,” Panelo said.
Panelo said that the intent of the proposed bill is to protect children against criminals who victimize and coerce them to become offenders especially due to the surge of offenses committed by children.
“The proposed law will deter criminals from using children as their accomplices or in treating them as pawns in committing crimes,” Panelo said.
“What the intended legislation does is actually to provide means of rehabilitation in favor of those youth who have freely and discerningly committed a crime,” he added.
Panelo reiterated President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s earlier statement that the current Juvenile Justice Welfare Act of 2006 (RA 9344), which exempts children 15 years old and below from criminal liability, has created a new generation of criminals.
“To the mind of the President, the current law has laid the foundation for the emergence of a new generation of criminals. When minors are released in as many times as they are arrested, criminality becomes a part of their lives and thereby evolving into being full-blown criminals,” Panelo said.
Panelo also emphasized that the President remains committed in providing children with a safe and peaceful environment by going after the principals and main actors of crime groups.
Panelo, meanwhile, urged Callamard to practice restraint in meddling with the country’s affairs describing her actions “shameful.”
“We find it shameful that United Nations Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard has again dipped her fingers on the domestic affairs of our country,” Panelo said.
Panelo said Callamard was incorrect for describing the proposed bill as “dangerous” without educating herself on its contents.
He pointed out that Callamard was also being intrusive and ignorant on how a sovereign state deals with its problems.
“Dr. Callamard would do well by restraining herself from using her UN post in continuing her interference in the country’s domestic affairs while waging a political agenda of demolition against the President,” he added.
Callamard made her remark against the House bill as she retweeted the UNICEF for reminding that brain function reaches maturity only at around 16 years old.
“Thank you to @UNICEF for this crucial reminder: the lowering of criminal responsibility to 9 years old is Philippines new dangerous and potentially deadly proposal. Just shameful,” Callamard said.