How can we protect our children?
Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay denounced the bill in the House of Representatives that seek to lower the age when minors will become criminally liable. Presently at fifteen, the lower house wants to pass a law that can make children as young as nine years to be within the ambit of penal laws.
Hilbay, bar topnotcher and a constitutional law professor at the University of the Philippines, took his oath today as member of Aksyon Demokratiko, the party founded by the late senator Raul Roco.
Hilbay praised Roco who “in his time as a legislator, championed the rights of women and children.”
Coincidentally, the House Committee on Justice just approved the proposed bill that will amend Republic Act 10630 which sets the minimum age of criminal liability at 15 but allows children as young as 12 to be detained in youth care facilities for grave offenses such as rape, murder, and homicide. Republic Act 10630 amended Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 which sets the age of criminal responsibility at 15 years old.
Hilbay described the proposed law as outrageous.
“Paano natin proprotektahan ang ating mga kabataan, kung mismong ang ating mambabatas ang pumapatay sa kanilang mga pangarap at pagkakataong magbago?” He asked.
Hilbay is included in the opposition slate which is now collectively called Otso Diretso.
Another senatorial candidate from the slate, law dean Chel Diokno, earlier expressed his opposition to the bill.
“Yung mga 9 year old na gumagawa ng mga opensang ganyan, palagay ko ay hindi nila gusto ‘yon. It is out of necessity, o ‘di kaya ay kinukuha sila ng mga sindikato. Kung kinukuha sila ng mga sindikato, dapat ang mga sindikato ang managot. Dapat sila ang bigyan natin ng malaking penalty. Hindi ang mga bata,” Diokno said.
Meanwhile, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) called the move of the lower house as “an act of violence against children.”
“A 9-year old child has not yet even reached the age of puberty and their brains are not developed to understand the consequences of actions,” UNICEF said.
Justice Committee chair Representative Salvador Leachon of Oriental Mindoro claimed that the bill, supported no less by House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, aims to protect children from being used by syndicates.
But Hilbay does not agree and argued that the root of criminality is poverty.
“What our children need is an environment where they can be reformed,” Hilbay averred.
“They need opportunities to keep them off from crimes – pagkain, pabahay, pangkabuhayan, at ayuda para sa pag-aaral – not a disconnected law that brands them as manifestly and inherently evil,” he continued.