By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — Lawmakers have once again ignored the strong outcry to put a stop to the proposed bill that aims to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility as they railroaded its approval on its second reading before the plenary of the House of Representatives on Jan. 23.
In a statement, Gabriela Women’s Party said its approval pushed through despite objections from the floor by several lawmakers who were against the proposed law.
“The House leadership pulled the strings to close the curtain on the period of interpellation and debate — despite the fact that the bill’s sponsor has failed to convincingly and substantially explain the rationale for rushing the measure. This is a cowardly act to constrict the space for legislative scrutiny of the patently insane measure,” the women’s group said.
In the midst of such strong public outcry, former president now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said in her media interviews that she supported the proposed law to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility because the “President wants it.” Among those who have strongly assailed the moves to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility are various human rights and child rights advocacy groups, lawyers, and even local celebrities.
Lawmakers, however, have already backed down from their earlier stance that the minimum age of criminal responsibility must be at 9 years old. On the second reading, they have agreed to make it 12, short of three years to the current age of criminal liability and is the same as stipulated in the Senate counterpart of the bill.
“How can the government be so hell-bent at lowering the minimum age for criminal responsibility but so vague at ensuring child rehabilitation and youth support programs and facilities, more so in addressing poverty? There is no substance in the defense that children will not be jailed and that they will be rehabilitated because existing facilities do not even meet the requirements of the law,” Gabriela Women’s Party said.