Senatorial candidates Grace Poe Llamanzares, Marwil Lllasos, Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Francis “Chiz” Escudero, Samson Alcantara, and Gringo Honasan tackle different national issues in a forum held last March 4 at the UST Medicine auditorium.Photo by Sherwin Marion T. Vardeleon

06 March 2013, 9:46 p.m. – SIX SENATORIAL candidates trooped to the Medicine auditorium Monday afternoon to present their platforms and tackle issues such as the proposal to lower the age of criminal liability.

The debate over lowering the age of criminal liability from 15 years old to 12 years old was highlighted in the second installment of “Town Hall,” the senatorial forum series sponsored by Solar News TV and election watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV).

The question was posed by Solar TV anchor Pia Hontiveros to candidates Francis “Chiz” Escudero, Grace Poe Llamanzares, Gringo Honasan, Marwil Lllasos, Edgardo “Sonny” Angara and Samson Alcantara.

United Nationalist Alliance candidate and reelectionist Honasan came in first, saying it is not a simple issue and could only be addressed with proper and sufficient data.

“We have passed too many laws and based on incomplete and insufficient data. So before we decide on this issue, we must first look at information, data, and variables affecting this matter,” Honasan said. “What we need is a better enforcement of the law.”

The issue of lowering the age of criminal liability surfaced late last year when the House of Representatives approved the bill lowering the threshold age to 12. A similar bill is pending in the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, headed by Escudero.

Social Justice Society party bet Samson Alcantara, a UST law professor, opposed the bill, saying “the rule must be maintained.”

“What we need is a more wholehearted, more conscientious enforcement of [existing] laws,” Alcantara said.

Escudero, who lobbied for the bill in the Senate, argued that syndicates use children in criminal activity.

“The liabilities of parents are under different laws, not under the Juvenile Justice Law. Ang kasalanan ni Juan ay kasalanan ni Juan,” Escudero said.

The senator added, “ginagamit ng mga sindikato ang mga batang yun para hindi mahuli, para hindi makulong. Kasalaukuyan nasa bicameral conference committee na kami. At ang tinatahanak na direksyon ng bicameral conference, ma-maintain yung 18 anyos na threshold ng criminal responsibility pero maglalagay po kami ng exception sa rule. Ang exception ay kapag ang isang bata ay 12-18 years old ay gumawa ng isang krimen na itinuturing na heinous crime, may liability na po siya o kapag napatanuyan na ilang ulit na siya nahuli sa parehong krimen, meron na siyang pananagutan basta napatunayan na sa batas natin na with discernment.”

The senator, who is an independent candidate but is identified under the administration senatorial slate “Team PNoy,” was citing the provision in Republic Act 9344 or the “Juvenile Justice Law of 2006” which states that “a child fifteen (15) years of age or under at the time of the commission of the offense shall be exempt from criminal liability. However, the child shall be subjected to an intervention program pursuant to Section 20 of this Act.”

Angara of the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino and the ruling Liberal Party said RA 9344 is a good measure to protect the welfare of children, but the problem lies in the implementation of the law.

“The life of law is experience, and not logic. We have to adjust with what the experience tells us,” Angara said. “There must be proper funding of the law for it to be well implemented. Tulungan ang bata na maibalik siya sa lipunan.”

Llasos of Ang Kapatiran party went against the proposition, saying the existing law must be followed.

“Children do not belong to jails. Ginagamit ang mga bata ng mga sindikato at kriminal. Ang mga bata, dapat nire-rehabilitate. Ang mga kriminal ang dapat parusahan,” said Llasos.

He added that more serious problems need to be addressed, such as funding for rehabilitation centers for juvenile offenders, and coordination between the Philippine National Police and the Department of Social Welfare and Development for the protection of children’s welfare.

Former MTRCB chairman Grace Poe-Llamanzares, an independent candidate, said children should have separate jails, but for rehabilitation purposes only.

Dapat magkaroon ng reporma sa mga kulungan para maprotektahan yung mga bata,” Poe-Llamanzares said.

Platforms presented

Poe-Llamanzares of Team Pnoy called for transparency in government and improvement in the lives of the marginalized.
Angara said he will prioritize education and giving jobs to people, especially to graduates. “Dahil marami po tayong mahusay na graduates pero karamihan po sa kanila ay umaalis po ng bansa naghahanap-buhay, sana po magawan natin ng paraan na mahanapan po natin sila ng trabaho dito,” he said.

Meanwhile, Honasan said he wanted the next generation of Filipinos to be smarter, healthier, stronger, happier, safer, more competitive and at par with citizens of other countries.

“For us to do that , we have to end once and for all poverty, and various forms of violence,” he said.

Alcantara said he will abolish political dynasties.

Llasos said he wants to be an inspiration to the Filipino youth. “Si Attorney Llasos ay lumalaban para sa kabataang Pilipino, sapagkat may karapatan tayong mangarap at ang pangarap na yan ay kailangang makamit ngayon na,” he said.

Escudero said he will continue his programs on education, health, and stable prices. Reden D. Madrid and Bernadette D. Nicolas


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