Fifteen minus six equals twelve, not nine, apparently. That’s how the Lower House tried to solve this political equation.
In less than an hour, the House of Representatives (HOR) Committee on Justice voted for the lowering of the minimum age for criminal responsibility (MACR) from the current 15 years old to nine years old. Social media went nuts when the news of the 9-1 voting broke on January 21.
I mean, why not? It was surprising that our elected representatives can actually get something done in less than an hour. Considering that some House Bills take years to pass, if at all. Besides that, how evil can you be to even think about criminalizing a nine year old kid, who is probably just in 3rd grade?
Increasing crime rates in the country is our lawmakers’ main defense on why they chose to pass a bill amending Republic Act No. 9344 or the Juvenile Justice Act and Welfare Act of 2006 (JJWA).
So the crime rates are increasing. Best solution? Blame the kids.
On January 16, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency caught 12 minors in a drug buy-bust operation in Navotas City. Philippine National Police (PNP) Director-General Oscar Albayalde was very vocal in favor of lowering MACR, claiming that it will lessen crimes involving children.
The operation? Maybe a play.
House Justice Committee Chair Salvador Leachon (1st District, Oriental Mindoro) said the committee will prioritize House Bill No. 8858. House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said she supports the bill and will make sure it passes the House before the 17th Congress adjourns.
Even with House Members denying they railroaded HB 8858, we can easily tell they did. The House passed the bill on First, Second, and Third Readings on January 21, 23, and 28, respectively. A bill passing the House in eight days will go down as the most evil thing these adults have done to children.
But we have to give it to them. Congress knows how to hype up its President’s agenda. It is still about the drug war.
The Senate has a counterpart bill lowering MACR. Its version wants to lower it to 12 years old. The House knew that if it wanted its bill to pass into law, it has to compromise with the Upper House. Lowering the MACR to nine years old in the initial approach gave the House the “hero’s advantage.” The House carried the people’s anger at first. But when it amended the bill on the floor during Second Reading, changing the age from nine to 12 years, the House received some conciliatory hoorahs.
PNP data shows only two percent of crimes in the country are committed by children, and that it is actually showing a downward trend. But why railroad this bill?
One, the President wants it. He has been vocal about it since 2016 and we all know he holds supermajority on both chambers. Two, crime rates are “increasing” and they had to do something about it (but this will not really solve anything). Three, the real criminals belong to their ranks–corrupt officials, thieves, and even murderers. They cannot put the spotlight on themselves. They had to blame the kids.