CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 19 August 2017

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No lowering of age of criminal liability

MANILA (UCAN): A decision by the lower house of the congress in Manila to overrule a bill proposing that the age of criminal liability for young people be lowered from the current 15 to as young as nine has been welcomed by rights advocates, prison chaplaincies and social workers.
 
“What is needed is to implement and strengthen the current law in dealing with children in conflict with the law,” Rodolfo Diamante, the secretary of the Commission on Prison Pastoral Care, said on May 29.
 
But in voting down the bill, the congress went even further, introducing a move to reduce sentences for young people who come into conflict with the law.
 
The president, Rodrigo Duterte, has championed the lowering of the age of criminal liability, as he thinks it would do something to help put an end to crime syndicates using children to do their dirty work, just to get around the law.
 
But the Church prison ministry only had praise for those who lobbied against the measure. “We pray and hope that our policy makers will finally see the light in passing laws that will be in the best interest of the child,” Diamante said.
 
The Church has repeatedly called on the congress to rethink its position on lowering the age of criminal responsibility.
 
They also appealed to the government to go after syndicates who exploit vulnerable children.
 
An alternative proposal aims to strengthen community- and centre-based intervention, through the establishment of facilities to work with young people who fall foul of the law.
 
The latest proposal seeks to have courts impose penalties two degrees lower than those provided for by the current law for crimes committed by young people.
 
Children aged 15 and below will also be made to undergo an intervention programme, so they will no longer have the option of being released back into the community after being held in custody.
 
However, on the flip side of the coin, the proposed bill seeks stiffer penalties for parents and criminal syndicates that use children to aid or abet their illegal activities.

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