Sotto refiles bill lowering age of criminal liability

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III refiled the controversial bill lowering the age of criminal liability on Monday, July 1, after lawmakers failed to pass it in the 17th Congress.

Senators, according to seniority, started to file their pet bills on Monday, ahead of the opening of the 18th Congress' session on July 22.

Senate Bill (SB) No. 5 seeks to amend Republic Act No. 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 by lowering the criminal responsibility to "above 9 years old."

This means that children as young as 10 years old could be detained in "Bahay Pag-asa" youth care facilities.

In filing the bill, Sotto said that the law should be "further adapt to changing times."

"The State must ensure that those children in conflict with the law who are currently exempted from criminal liability who take advantage of the same must not be given the same privilege," he said.

RA 9344 was amended in 2013 through RA 10630, which retains the minimum age at 15 but allows children as young as 12 to be detained for serious crimes such as rape, murder, and homicide, among others crimes.

SB 5 is the same as the version filed in the 17th Congress, which was not passed due to lack of time for debates. (READ: When 'Houses of Hope' fail children in conflict with the law)

Pro-child groups and social workers oppose a lower age of criminal liability, saying that a child's brain has not yet fully developed at adolescence. (READ: Children in conflict with the law: Cracks in Juvenile Justice Act) 

Sotto also refiled the following bills:

For his first 10 bills, Sotto also sought to give medical scholarships in state universities, create a Presidential Drug Enforcement Authority, amend the Terrorism Act, push for a hybrid election, increase the penalty for perjury, and prevent fake news.

After Sotto, Senator Panfilo Lacson, Senator Francis Pangilinan, and Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto filed their pet bills on Monday morning. –

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.