Criminal liability threshold breeds ‘more’ child offenders

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Congressional allies of President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday claimed that the Juvenile Justice and Welfare of Children Law, which increased the minimum age of criminal liability to 15, resulted in more children committing crimes.

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Rep. Reynaldo Umali of Oriental Mindoro and Rep. Gwen Garcia of Cebu, however, offered no basis for their declaration.

“Raising the minimum age [of criminal liability]to 15 led to more children engaged in criminal activities. You see, putting it [minimum age]back to nine did not produce the desired objective. Must we leave it at that? Must we allow the children to be used by criminals?” Umali told reporters.

“Under our present law, children in conflict with the law must be returned to the custody of their parents. But we all know that they run in conflict with the law because their parents neglect them. That’s why our law must be amended. As to the figures, I will leave that to the justice committee,” he said.

Garcia said law enforcers in her home province of Cebu have long complained to her dating back to her tenure as Cebu governor that children who commit crimes, most commonly robbery, cannot be arrested because of the limits of the existing law putting the threshold at 15 years old.

She argued that these children in conflict with the law already bring their birth certificate with them so that they can easily present it the moment that the police arrest them.

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