UST RECTOR Fr. Herminio Dagohoy, O.P. slammed the proposed measure to lower the age of criminal liability to 12 years old from 15, saying children should be educated, not imprisoned.

In his homily during the University Mass for the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas on Friday, Dagohoy said children should be seen in schools and playgrounds, where they belong.

“[A]ng mga bata saan dapat makikita? Sa tamang lugar: sa eskuwelahan, sa laruan, hindi sa kulungan. Kapag nilagay mo sa kulungan [ang mga] ‘yan, tama ba ‘yon?” he said.

Actions that are not in line with the heart and mind are “sinful,” which, he said, is what a number politicians have become.

“Iba ‘yong sinasabi, iba ‘yung ginagawa. Sumasala. Iba ‘yung sinasabi, hindi malinaw sa ginagawa. Hindi maganda,” he said.

On Jan. 23, the House of Representatives approved on second reading a bill that seeks to lower the age of criminal liability to 12 years old instead of nine, as proposed originally.

House Bill 8858 seeks to amend the Juvenile Justice Act, which set the minimum age of criminal liability at 15 years old.

Oriental Mindoro Rep. Salvador Leachon, chairman of the House Committee on Justice, has clarified that children would be put in “reformative institutions” and not prisons.

Under the measure, children above 12 years old but under 18 will be subjected to an intervention program and exempted from liability unless the minor “acted with discernment.”

In a statement, the UST Volunteers for the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UST-Unicef) called the bill “ironic and hypocritical” for violating a child’s rights.

Although the bill promises to put children in “intervention facilities,” the organization pointed out that the country lacked such facilities.

UST-Unicef said children in conflict with the law were merely exploited by adult criminals, making them “victims of circumstances and environment rather than mere perpetrators of crime.”

“Lowering the age of criminal liability not only disregards the fact that children at that age are still not mature enough. It also makes younger children vulnerable targets of crime syndicates and other violators of children’s rights,” the statement read.

President Rodrigo Duterte wants to lower the age of criminal responsibility, arguing that offenders have been using minors as accomplices and drug couriers to escape prosecution.


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