Panel recommends increased penalty for parents of children in conflict with law

The Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights has recommended the raising of penalty for parents whose child, aged 12 years old but below 18 years, committed serious crimes.

This was contained in the 13-page Committee Report 622, which recommended the lowering of minimum age of criminal liability (MACR) from 15 years old to 12.

Under the measure, parents of children who committed serious crimes "shall suffer the penalty of prision correccional in its minimum period to prision correccional in its maximum period," or a minimum of six months and one day to a maximum of six years imprisonment.

This amended Article 60 of Presidential Decree 603, or the "Child and Youth Welfare Code, which imposes parental liability of "imprisonment from two or six months or a fine not exceeding five hundred pesos, or both, at the discretion of the court, unless a higher penalty is provided for in the Revised Penal Court or special laws..."

Meanwhile, under Section 20-D of Republic Act 10630, or "An Act Establishing a Comprehensive Juvenile Justice and Welfare System" enacted on July 23, 2012, "the court may require the parents of a child in conflict with the law to undergo counseling..."

The increased penalties for parental liability is in accordance with the recent pronouncements of President Rodrigo Duterte urging Congress to legislate provisions in the law that imposes punishment for parents of children in conflict with the law.

Duterte had said parents should be "conscious of the criminal accountability" of their children because they, too, would be held accountable for their children's offenses.

Committee Report 622, which contained Senate Bill 219 or "An Act Strengthening the Youth Social Welfare Programs and Extending the Scope of Reformation and Rehabilitation of Children in Conflict with the Law," was submitted for plenary considerations last January 30, Wednesday.

Committee chair Sen. Richard Gordon is expected to present the committee report to the Senate plenary on Monday. At least 11 senators have already signed the report, with some of them expressing readiness to interpellate or introduce amendments.

It seeks to amend Republic Act 9344, or the "Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006," which sets the MACR to15 years old.

The report proposes that "a child below 12 years of age at the time of the commission of the offense shall be exempt from liability. However, the child shall be subjected to an intervention program pursuant to this Act."

"A child 12 years of age and above but below 18 years of age shall likewise be exempt from liability and be subjected to an intervention program, unless the child has acted with discernment, in which case such child shall be subjected to the appropriate proceedings in accordance with this Act," the report stated.

Those who commit a serious crime would be sent to Juvenile Reformatory Centers, also called Bahay Pag-asa, it added.

These serious crimes involve parricide, murder, infanticide, kidnapping, serious illegal detention where the victim is killed or raped, robbery with homicide or rape, desrtructive arson, rape, or carnapping where the driver or occupant is killed or raped, or offenses under Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 that is punishable by more than 12 years in prison.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development will be responsible for building, funding and operating "Bahay Pag-asa," allocations of which will be included in the budget of the DSWD in the annual General Appropriations Act.

Every Bahay Pag-asa, under the proposal should have amenities such as gyms, libraries and vocational-technical training shops. There should have programs for alternative learning programs geared towards values formation, cultural awareness, reading, and skills development.

Children who do not pose a risk to the community may be allowed to attend schools outside the Bahay Pag-asa, the proposal stated.

They could be released to their parents, foster parents or guardians only on order by the court and after a comprehensive study conducted by the local DSWD officer.

The report also stated that children below the age of criminal responsibility, in consultation with local DSWD officer, should be released to the custody of his/her parents, guardians or nearest relative.

"No child under seven years of age shall be separated from the mother, unless the latter is unfit," the report stressed.

The following children may also be placed in foster care:

Abandoned, surrendered, neglected, dependent or orphaned;

Victim of sexual, physical, or any other form of abuse or exploitation;

A child with special needs;

A child whose family members are temporarily or permanently unable or unwilling to provide the child with adequate care;

A child awaiting placement; among others.

Source: Senate of the Philippines