Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte on Saturday said his proposal to lower the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to nine does not mean that young offenders will go to prison.
Alvarez, who has been anointed by President Duterte as the next Speaker, was referring to his proposal to amend the Juvenile Delinquency Act of 2006 which he co-authored with Rep. Fredenil Castro of Capiz.
The lawmaker’s measure recently earned criticisms from Liberal Party Senators Francis Pangilinan and Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino 4th who maintained that the government should go after syndicates that take advantage of children.
“If the fear is that all youthful offenders will be thrown in jail along with hardened criminals, that is not what we want to achieve. Our goal is to prevent young people from being exploited by criminal syndicates to commit various crimes and to make them undergo mandatory rehabilitation by the DSWD,” Alvarez said, referring to the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
“While the intent of the existing law may be highly laudable, it had the opposite effect of pampering youthful offenders who commit crimes knowing they can get away with it,” he added.
In his proposal, Alvarez said adult criminals knowingly and purposely make use of youths below 15 years of age to commit crimes because they cannot be held criminally liable.
“We hope to be able to come up with a mutually acceptable version of the bill through consultation and dialogue with senators and other stakeholders,” he said.
Alvarez has also proposed to restore death penalty for heinous crimes, including drug trafficking, plunder and car theft.