Lowering the age of minimum criminal responsibility has to be complemented with an efficient reformation program.
Both Gov. Edgar Chatto and Deputy Speaker Arthur Yap pointed this out in separate radio interviews.
Other officials of Bohol are yet to issue their stand on the issue.
For his part, Yap explained that he would excuse himself from making a stand categorically in the lowering of the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 years old to 9 years old.
He explained that all he wanted that the proposed provision on the “mandatory confinement” for rehabilitation at Bahay Pag-asa of children in conflict with law (CICL) should be complemented with efficient reformation program and there should be an assurance of compliance by the local government units for their part in its implementation.
Chatto, for his part, also excused himself from making a stand on the issue but he said the province of Bohol is on track in establishing an efficient reformation program through the Bohol Youth Home that is now 30 percent done and is being constructed in Cortes.
Chatto also underscore the roles of the family and community in the protection of the children from unscrupulous individuals or groups that would exploit them in which the government provides a program that would invite partnership with the households for the promotion of the well-being of the children so that the children would be reared to be law-abiding citizens.
The Bohol Youth Home is actually intended to serve as the provincial government’s compliance with the existing version of RA 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 as amended by RA 10630.
The amendatory provisions of RA 10630 set the age of criminal responsibility at 15 years old.
Now, the House Committee on Justice delves into a substitute bill that would further amend the law by lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 years old to 9 years old.
It is proposed in the still unnumbered House bill “that children 9 to 14 years old who will commit serious crimes – such as murder, parricide, infanticide, serious illegal detention, carnapping, and violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 – be subjected to ‘mandatory confinement’ for rehabilitation at Bahay Pag-asa.
The House committee on justice approved the bill on January 21.
RA 10630, the law which is in effect at present, “retains the minimum age of criminal liability at 15 but allows children as young as 12 to be detained in youth care facilities or Bahay Pag-asa for serious crimes only such as rape, murder, and homicide, among others”.
The proposed House bill that would amend RA 10630 includes the following highlights:
- Children from 9 years old to below 15 years old, and who committed the serious offenses of murder, parricide, infanticide, serious illegal detention, carnapping, and violation of the dangerous drugs law would be brought to Bahay Pag-asa for rehabilitation.
- The exploiter of the child would face 12 to 20 years in prison if the crime committed has a punishment equivalent to 6 years of jail time. If the child in conflict with the law commits a crime where the punishment is more than 6 years in prison, his or her exploiter would face life imprisonment or up to 40 years in prison.
- Parents of the children in conflict with the law would undergo a similar intervention program at Bahay Pag-asa. If the parents “will not perform,” they would go to jail instead.
- The penalty to be imposed upon children in conflict with the law will always be two degrees lower compared to when an adult has committed the crime. But if the children commit an offense where the punishment is equal to life imprisonment, they would face only up to 12 years imprisonment.
- If the child in conflict with the law reaches 18 years old and fails to be reformed, that is the only time he or she would be sent to agricultural camps or training centers. Upon reaching 25 years old, he or she will be set free, whether or not the sentence was completed. These camps will be supervised by the Bureau of Corrections and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
- Records of children in conflict with the law would be kept confidential.
- Supervision of Bahay Pag-asa will be transferred from local government units to the Department of Social Welfare and Development. Congress will allocate funds for Bahay Pag-asa annually.
Meanwhile, most Boholanos agreed to the lowering of the minimum age of criminal responsibility, citing the many instances reported in the news that minors figure in drug trafficking, rape, snatching, and theft and robbery.
Only few expressed objection to the proposed measure, citing the responsibility of the community to guide the children and protect them from syndicates that would exploit them.
They also expressed concern what would happen to the children who would be apprehended for their commission of crimes only to be returned to their homes that could not provide them with proper guidance and be back on the streets to commit additional crimes.
It is on this point that those who objected to the measure sought the assurance of local government units to make sure there is an efficient reformation program in the localities that would take charge of the CICL.