IFUGAO Representative Teddy Brawner Baguilat strongly urged the Duterte administration to reconsider its stance by keeping the minimum age of criminal responsibility at 15 years old, instead of bringing it down to as low as nine years old.
Baguilat said the government's insistence on pushing through Congress a law that will lower the age of criminal liability goes against the will of the people and was an easy way out of the problem with children getting into conflict with the law.
He cited the statement recently issued by Malacañang, saying that despite data showing that more Filipinos were in favor of keeping the minimum age of criminal liability at 15 years old, the President's stance remains unchanged.
The Palace said lowering the age was part of the legislative agenda of the President as a means to ensure that the Filipino youth would accept responsibility for their actions and be subjected to government intervention programs.
This stance runs counter to the survey results of Pulse Asia, which said that the majority or 55 percent of Filipinos believe that the minimum age of criminal responsibility should be kept at the current 15 years old.
Only nine percent believe that it should be brought down to nine years old.
Children's rights advocates from the Child Rights Network (CRN) noted in its own statement that the results of the Pulse Asia survey were consistent throughout Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao and across all socio-economic classes in the Philippines, indicating that Filipinos see the lowering of the minimum age of criminal responsibility as going against the best interests of children.
A more lasting solution, said Baguilat, was to fully implement the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act (JJWA), which provides a complete range of interventions from prevention to rehabilitation like the establishment of youth centers where children in conflict with the law are given the help they need to get back on the right track.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez earlier filed House Bill 2 that seeks to lower the minimum age. There are five other bills that seek to amend the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act in order to lower MACR from 15 years old to 9.
The bills are now under deliberation by a technical working group organized by the HOR Committee on Justice. Baguilat, who leads the independent minority group in the House, is determined to fight the passage of such a law in the Lower House. (PR)