THE House committee on justice chaired by Oriental Mindoro Representative Doy Leachon has approved the bill that seeks to lower the age of criminal liability from 15 to nine years old.

The bill that was approved Monday, January 21, substituted House Bills 2, 505, 935, 1609, 2009 and 3973, or “An Act Amending Certain Provisions of RA (Republic Act) 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act (JJWA) of 2006,” and House Bill 3973, “An Act Lowering the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility (MACR) Amending RA 9344.”

Capiz Representative Fredenil Castro made the motion to approve the substitute bill.

Gabriela Representative Arlene Brosas objected to Castro's motion but the committee refused to take note of her objection.

Citing the House rules, Leachon said Brosas cannot participate in the voting as she is not a member of the justice committee.

Agusan del Norte Representative Lawrence Fortun is the sole member of the committee who objected to the approval of its report that contains the substitute bill.

During the hearing, Leachon said children nine and above who have committed violations against the law will not be imprisoned.

“Let it be understood that with the present bill, we are not putting these children in jail but in reformative institutions to correct their ways and bring them back to the community. They are not branded as criminals but children in conflict with law. Reformative institutions do not punish individuals but instead, they were established to help the children to be integrated back to the community after they have committed criminal acts,” he said.

Leachon said it is high time for them to pass the measure in order to protect children from being used by criminal syndicates.

“To summarize, the issue on setting the minimum age of criminal responsibility is an integral part of reforming our juvenile system,” said Leachon.

“Providing the appropriate age for imposing liability is an important aspect in making sure that the youth, our children, is protected from abuse and unscrupulous machinations of criminals and syndicates,” he added.

He said the justice committee considers the bill a “priority matter of legislation” as “the current Congress gives utmost importance to measures that ensure the safety of the country’s future generations.”

President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly asked the Congress to craft a law that will lower the age of criminal liability as he noted that syndicates are using children for criminal purposes.

The minimum age of criminal liability in the Philippines is pegged at nine years old under the Revised Penal Code, but in 2006, the minimum age became 15 years old after the passage of RA 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act. (SunStar Philippines)