THE bicameral conference committee on the proposed bill amending the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act has agreed to retain the age of criminal liability to 15-years-old instead of lowering it down to 12-years-old as proposed earlier by Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd.
Senator Francis Escudero made it clear that it doesn’t mean that children aged 12 but below 15-years-old who committed heinous are free of any liability, in fact, he noted that the committee included a provision wherein they will be subjected to an intensified intervention program and involuntary commitment.
Based on the proposal children above 12 years old but below 15 are exempted from any criminal liability except those who committed heinous crimes and repeat offenders.
Those children of the said age range who committed parricide, infanticide, homicide, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, rape, robbery, destructive arson, carjacking and drug trafficking will be referred to a youth care facility maintained by the local government units (LGUs).
As for children above 15 but below 18 years old, they can be charged criminally only if proven that they committed the crime with discernment or understanding, but they will not be detained in regular jails.
Meanwhile, stiffer penalties awaits those individuals that will be found using children in their criminal activities.
According to Escudero individuals that will be caught using children will be given the maximum penalty of the crime which they forced children to commit.
The bicameral conference committee was supposed to ratify the bill amending the JJWA last January but it was delayed because the committee was not able to reconcile the disagreeing provisions in the Senate and House versions.
Sotto wants the law to lower the age of criminal liability for children in conflict with the law to 12 years old saying that such move would send a clear message to all that every offense they made has a corresponding punishment.
Sotto insisted that disallowing his proposal to lower the age of criminal liability for heinous crime would make the amendment on JJWA useless and could even send the wrong message to youth offenders that it is alright to commit murder and rape.
Escudero expressed optimism that both houses would be able to ratify the new version of the JJWA before the 15th congress adjourns sine die next week (June 7).