Karapatan hits bill to lower age of criminal responsibility as Sen. Sotto files it anew

“Karapatan reiterates its opposition on the bill lowering the age of criminal responsibility as Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III refiled it on Monday, July 1 despite strong condemnation from various groups and individuals when it was filed in the 17th Congress,” Jose Mari Callueng, Karapatan National Council member, said.

Refiled as Senate Bill No. 5, it seeks to amend the existing Republic Act No. 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006. SB No. 5 will propose lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility to “above 9 years old.”

 “This move exacerbates the already dangerous situation of Filipino children. The refiling of the bill means that this government is hellbent on allowing Filipino children to serve as a collateral damage in the government’s sham and anti-people policies. This does not address the dire situation of children, nor does it attempt to solve the socio-economic conditions at the root of the problem. By being insistent on this bill, Sotto betrays his privileged position which refuses to consider the plight of poor children who have been disadvantaged because of their conditions,” said Callueng.

Karapatan emphasized that if the Duterte regime really wants to put an end to crimes, then the government should focus in stopping the operations of big time crime syndicates and their patrons in government, and in addressing the socio-economic problems that Filipinos face. “Militarist policies such as the reinstatement of death penalty and the proposal to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility have been repeatedly proven to be ineffective in curbing criminality,” Callueng commented.

In previous statements, Karapatan criticized how the proposed bill neglects the context that poverty and lack of work and education opportunities as the main factors on offenses committed by children. According to a study by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), at least 45% of the offenses attributed to children are petty theft, robbery, and other offenses against property, while 65% of minor offenders come from poor families.

“We strongly urge the Duterte government to perform its mandate of providing quality and accessible opportunities to children. To lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility is to inflict more harm and danger to millions of Filipino children who will be at risk of being criminalized and stigmatized for their entire life,” Callueng said.

Karapatan calls on various groups and the Filipino people to stand in opposition against this new attempt to enact the lowered minimum age of criminal responsibility and all other measures that can never truly address the ills of society.