VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Arroyo changes stance on juvenile justice for Duterte

Read this fact check in Filipino

Former President and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has backtracked on her position that children age 15 and below are not criminally liable.

STATEMENT

In a statement issued Jan. 19, two days before the House justice committee hearing on lowering the age of criminal liability, the office of Arroyo said:

“In support of the request of President Rodrigo Duterte, former President and Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will move for the passage of a bill that will lower the age of criminal liability from 15 years to nine.”

Source: House of Representatives, SGMA moves to lower age of criminal liability, Jan. 19, 2019

The House justice committee approved on Jan. 21 the substitute bill lowering the age of criminal responsibility to nine from 15 years old.

Arroyo called for a closed-door meeting with the committee members prior to the hearing, which she also attended as ex-officio member. Of all the committee members, only Agusan del Norte 1st District Rep. Lawrence Fortun opposed the measure.

Duterte has openly supported moves in both houses of Congress to amend RA 9344 or the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act of 2006. He has repeatedly lambasted the law, calling it a “great injustice” when children above 15 years but below 18 who run afoul of the law, especially repeat offenders, are “automatically” set free.

Under the current law, child offenders above 15 years but below 18 who “acted with discernment” are not exempt from criminal liability.

FLIPFLOP

It was then president Arroyo who signed RA 9344 into law in 2006, raising the minimum age of criminal liability to 15 years old from nine, the standard prescribed by the Revised Penal Code.

The landmark law, which Arroyo declared an administrative priority in 2005, was hailed by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) as a “long-awaited milestone in the promotion of child rights in the country.”

In her letter to the Senate dated Sept. 19, 2005, Arroyo certified the “necessity of the immediate passing” of the law “to urgently address youth delinquency...by instituting a paradigm shift in dealing with youth offenders accenting restorative justice.”

Arroyo further issued Executive Order No. 633 in 2007, directing the Department of Justice to file for the immediate release of children age 15 and below who were still in prison.

In 2016, several representatives filed a total of six bills amending RA 9344, all seeking to reduce the minimum age of criminal liability from 15 years old to nine: House bills 2, 505, 935, 1609 2009 and 3973.

House Justice committee chairperson Salvador Leachon said the approved consolidated bill aims to protect children from being used by syndicates to commit crimes.

Sources:

House of Representatives, SGMA moves to lower age of criminal liability, Jan. 19, 2019

PCOO, Speech of President Rodrigo Duterte during the 1st Subaraw Biodiversity Festival, Puerto Princesa City, Nov. 11, 2018

ABS-CBN News Online, Duterte backs senators pushing to ‘repeal’ the Pangilinan law, Sept. 27, 2018

Reuters.com, Philippine senators oppose the president’s push to lower criminal age to 9, Jan. 22, 2019

Dzrhnews.com.ph, Malacanang: Prez Duterte supports lowering age of criminal liability; wants parents to be liable, Jan. 21, 2019

The Manila Times, Bishop bucks lower age of criminal liability, Jan. 21, 2019

Official Gazette, Juvenile Justice Welfare Act of 2006

Unicef.org, Philippines enacts law on juvenile justice system, May 16, 2006

Congress.gov.ph, Justice committee approves bill lowering age of criminal responsibility to 9, Jan. 21, 2019

Official Gazette, Revised Penal Code

Senate.gov.ph, Journal No. 22, Sept. 21, 2005

Official Gazette, Executive Order No. 633

Congress.gov.ph, House Bill 002

Congress.gov.ph, House Bill 505

Congress.gov.ph, House Bill 935

Congress.gov.ph, House Bill 1609

Congress.gov.ph, House Bill 2009

Congress.gov.ph, House Bill 3973

Rappler.com, House panel OKs bill to lower age of criminal liability to 9 years old, Jan. 21, 2019

Inquirer.net, Amid jeers, House panel OKs lower age of criminal liability, Jan. 21, 2019

Manila Bulletin, House committee approves bill lowering criminal age of liability to nine, Jan. 21, 2019

ABS-CBN News Online, House panel approves bill seeking to lower age of criminal liability to 9, Jan. 21, 2019

(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

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