Willie Ong and Francis Tolentino’s claims on minimum age of criminal responsibility in other countries
During ABS-CBN’s “Harapan 2019” senatorial debate on Feb. 17, 2019, nine senatorial candidates were asked about their stand on lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) from the current 15 years old.
Five out of the nine candidates said that they were in favor of lowering the MACR: Larry Gadon (Kilusang Bagong Lipunan), Jiggy Manicad (independent), former Biliran representative Glenn Chong (Katipunan ng Demokratikong Pilipino), cardiologist Willie Ong (LAKAS-CMD), and former Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Francis Tolentino (PDP-LABAN).
To support their stand, Ong and Tolentino cited a number of countries that have set 6-13 as their MACR.
Ong said he could accept the lowering of the MACR to 13, adding that the worldwide average was 11 years old.
“Yes. Ang focus talaga natin ‘yung pagpaparami ng Bahay Pag-Asa. Sa ngayon kasi, 53% pa lang ang may Bahay Pag-Asa. Kahit ‘yung mga social worker, mga 3% lang. Pero kung magkakaroon na ng maraming Bahay Pag-Asa, hindi natin ilalagay sa kulungan, para sa akin, puwede ibaba ng konti, hanggang 13 years old.
“Ang average sa buong mundo is 11 years old. Sa US, Singapore, 7 years old. Sa Hong Kong, 10 years old. Sa South Korea, 14 years old pero binababa nila sa 13. Pero ibababa lang natin kung kumpleto na ‘yung Bahay Pag-Asa at hindi natin ilalagay sa kulungan.
Tolentino meanwhile, agreed that “the MACR should be lowered.”
“Sang-ayon po akong gawing 12, 13 coming from 15. Tama po ‘yung narinig ko, Australia, 10 years old.
“New Zealand, 10 years old. Myanmar, 7 years old. Hong Kong, 10 years old. South Carolina, USA, 6 years old.
“Pero ang idadagdag ko po ganito. ‘Pagka na-prosecute po ang isang bata, dapat po magkaroon ng diversion proceedings, hindi po ginawa ito. Ida-divert sa special juvenile justice system. ‘Pag sila ay na-convict, papasok po sila sa isang reformative justice system, hindi po sila ihahalo doon sa kagaya nuong nagtanong kanina, magkakaroon po ng parang Boys Town, magkakaroon po ng isang kulungan na kung saan pagkatapos nila ay makakabalik sila sa lipunan, sa mainstream lipunan na may dignidad ‘din at kikilalanin bilang isang reformed individual.”
Data from the Child Rights International Network (CRIN), a London-based organization that monitors MACR worldwide, show that the figures Ong and Tolentino cited were true.
However, the same CRIN database also showed that in at least 45 countries, the MACR is 15 to 18 years old. These countries include Mainland China, Russia, Poland, and Brazil.
“At least 51 countries have raised the minimum age of criminal responsibility over the past 30 years,” CRIN legal coordinator Leo Ratledge said in a Feb. 19, 2019 email to the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group.
Worldwide, the “general trend” for the MACR has been “to increase,” Ratledge added.
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