New bicam in June for Juvenile Justice Law
MANILA, Philippines - Lawmakers are set to hold another bicameral conference committee hearing in June – when Congress resumes session – to try to have the bill amending the juvenile justice law approved, Sen. Francis Pangilinan said yesterday.
The decision was made after senators failed to reach an agreement on Monday over the minimum age of criminal liability that they hoped to include as amendment to Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006.
The Senate’s version of the bill - contained in Senate Bill 3324 - opted to retain the current minimum age of 15 while the House of Representative’s version OR HB 6052 set it at 12.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III was pushing for the adoption of 12 as the minimum age provided the youth offender was involved in heinous crimes.
Pangilinan, principal author of the original law and co-sponsor of the current bill, said that the Senate panel is looking at the proposal of Sotto as a possible compromise.
“We will convene the bicam in June and in the meantime try and find a Solomonic decision during the recess,” he said.
Sotto noted that many heinous crimes such as rape and murder are committed by minors under the age of 15. The minor offenders easily get away with the offense and become repeat offenders.
Pangilinan cited a study by the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, which considers 15 as the age of discernment.
Pangilinan said only 15 percent of the crimes committed by minors are serious and that 90 percent of those involved are first offenders. He said first offenders should be given a second chance.
He said the Senate panel is still working on a compromise based on the amendment proposed by Sotto.
The bill also provides that minors convicted of a crime be placed in an intensive juvenile intervention and support center within the Bahay Pag-Asa and not in regular jails.
Sotto, meanwhile, rejected the proposal of Sen. Pia Cayetano to bring the matter back to the technical working group, saying it was uncalled for.
Sotto also criticized what he described as meddling of the Commission on Human Rights in the bicameral conference. With Helen Flores