House approves bill lowering age of ‘social responsibility’ to 12


The House of Representatives on Monday approved on third and final reading a proposed bill lowering the minimum “age of social responsibility” from 15 years to 12 years old.

House Bill 8858, otherwise known as An Act Expanding the Scope of the Reformation and Rehabilitation of Children in Conflict with the Law and Strengthening the Social Reintegration Programs, Amending for the purpose Republic Act 9344 (Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006) as amended, was passed with a vote of 146-34 with no abstentions.

Oriental Mindoro Rep. Doy Leachon, chair of the House committee on justice, said the proposed law uses the term “minimum age of social responsibility” (MASR) instead of minimum age of criminal responsibility to reflect the measure’s objectives.
He said under the proposed measure, children in conflict with the law would not spend jail time but would be treated in youth care facilities called Bahay Pag-asa.
As provided under HB 8858, children below 12 years old would be exempt from criminal liability.
Likewise, children 12 years and above but below 18 years old who are in conflict with the law shall also be exempted from liability and be subjected to intervention programs, unless the minor acted with discernment.
As provided in the proposed measure, Bahay Pag-asa refers to the a 24-hour child-care institution established, funded and managed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and licensed and/or accredited non-governmental organization (NGOs) providing short-term care for children in conflict with the law who are 12 years and above but below 18 years old who are committed for rehabilitation or awaiting court disposition of their cases or transfer to other agencies or disposition.
Part of the features of a Bahay Pag-asa is an Intensive Juvenile Intervention and Support Center (IJISC) which will cater to children who committed serious offenses.
Children 12 years old but below 18 years who commit petty offenses would not be confined in a Bahay Pag-asa.
The exception is when the child has no family or deemed as “neglected.”
Only children 12 years old and above but below 18 years of age who commit serious crimes like parricide, infanticide, murder, kidnapping, rape, destructive arson and offenses under the Comprehensive Dangerous Act punishable by more than 12 years imprisonment among others shall be mandatorily placed in the IJISC.
Any person who uses or exploits a child in the commission of a crime shall be punished to a maximum of reclusion perpetua.
Parents of children who commit serious crimes or are repeat offenders shall undergo mandatory intervention programs including parenting seminars and counseling.
The failure of such parents to undergo mandatory intervention programs, unless prevented by a lawful cause, shall be a ground for imprisonment from 30 days to six months.
The parents shall be primarily liable for civil damages arising out of the actions of children in conflict with the law.
The court shall impose the penalty two degrees lower than that prescribed by the law for crimes committed by children who are in conflict with the law. In cases where the law prescribes a fixed period of imprisonment, the period shall be reduced by two-thirds.
For crimes punishable by life imprisonment, the penalty to be imposed shall be imprisonment of up to 12 years.
Leachon explained that if children 12 years and above but less than 18 years of age are convicted, they will be detained at agricultural camps under the supervision of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
“If the child reaches 18 years of age and does not reform under proper intervention, the execution of judgment shall be made but only up to 25 years of age,” Leachon said. (PNA)

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