Lawmakers disagree on minimum age for juvenile delinquents

Posted at 02/04/13 6:37 PM

Lower House wants the minimum age at 12

MANILA - The bicameral conference committee failed to approve a reconciled version of a measure amending the Juvenile Justice Act on Monday because lawmakers from the two houses of Congress did not agree on the minimum age that will make a person liable for criminal offenses.

The Senate's version of the bill maintains the minimum age at 15, which means minors aged 15 and below are exempt from criminal liability, except for grave offenses that will require confinement in a special facility for the youth.

The House of Representatives' version, on the other hand, lowers the minimum age of criminal liability to 12 for all offenses.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan, a co-sponsor of the bill, said that based on data from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, only 15 percent of offenses committed by minors aged 15 and below are serious.

"Kung mayro'ng 15 percent na serious offenses, dapat hindi buong 100 ilalagay mo sa gano'ng klaseng katayuan. Dapat ihiwalay 'yon," he told reporters.

He added, however, that under the Senate's version, people aged 15 and below who commit heinous offenses such as rape and murder will be taken to a special facility for youth offenders for 6 months of care and rehabilitation.

Pangilinan is open to the proposal, however, of lowering the minimum age of criminal liability to 12 only if the offense is heinous.

"That's a possible compromise. We will stay at 15 ... except when cases are heinous in nature," he said.

Pangilinan said he will bring up the proposal to House lawmakers when the bicameral committee resumes its deliberations this week.