Bicam to tackle bill amending Philippine juvenile justice system

A bill that seeks to lower the minimum age for criminal liability of minor offenders who acted with discernment is just a bicameral conference away from becoming law.

The House of Representatives and the Senate will meet in a bicameral conference committee to tackle House Bill 6052, otherwise known as “Strengthening the Juvenile Justice System in the Philippines Act.”

Elected to the bicameral conference committee were Reps. Marlyn L. Primicias-Agabas (6th District, Pangasinan), Mel Senen S. Sarmiento (1st District, Western Samar), Pablo P. Garcia (2nd District, Cebu), Susan A. Yap (2nd District, Tarlac), Mercedes K. Alvarez (6th District, Negros Occidental).

HB 6052 defines a youthful offender as a child above 12 years but at least 15 years of age who acted with discernment and a child above 15 years of age but under 18 years old at the time of the alleged commission of a criminal offense.

The bill suspends the sentence of a child 12 years of age or under and a child above 12 years old but at least 15 years of age who acted with discernment and was found guilty of an offense but mandates that the child be committed to a repository institution or to the custody of the Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD) or any duly licensed agency.

If the child failed to comply with the conditions of the repository institutions mentioned, the bill mandates that the child should be returned to the committing court for the imposition of the penalty upon reaching 18 years of age.

The measure also calls for the imposition of stiffer penalties for those who are found guilty of taking advantage of children to carry out criminal activities to deter the exploitation of juveniles.

Another provision is the transfer of supervision and control of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council from the Department of Justice to the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

The bill defines the responsibility of parents in the supervision of their children and provides assistance to victims of offenses committed by children.

Also joining the members of the bicameral conference committee are Reps. Maria Isabelle G. Climaco (1st District, Zamboanga City), Rufus B. Rodriguez (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro City), Danilo E. Suarez (3rd District, Quezon), Maria Milagros H. Magsaysay (1st District, Zambales), Mar-len Abigail S. Binay and Karlo Alexei B. Nograles (1st District, Davao City).

The bill was approved on third and final reading in June last year while its Senate counterpart, Senate Bill 3324 was just recently approved on third and final reading.

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