By Ben Rosario
BATO, Southern Leyte – Discernment in the commission of a criminal act should be determined by the courts and not by mere assumption that a minor is incapable of deciding what is right and wrong.
Hugpong ng Pagbabago chairperson and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte aired this opinion as she revealed that she supports the legislative measure proposing to reduce the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12 years old.
Duterte, who is leading an HNP senatorial campaign caravan in the Visayas, gave her reaction to the MACR bill as she expressed strong concern over the gruesome murder of 16-year-old Christine Lee Silawan, allegedly by a group headed by her 17-year-old former boyfriend
A staunch anti-crime crusader, the lady mayor said the minor suspect will not undergo the “regular justice” proceedings because of his age.
Duterte said she supports the bill setting the MACR cap to 12 but not lower than this age.
“The youngest na nakita namin ay 13, heinous crime,” she said, recalling a murder staged by a 13-year-old suspect in Davao City.
“Hindi dapat i-assume kaagad na dahil bata hindi niya alam ang ginawa niya. Iyon kasi ang assumption ng iba,” she explained. (It should not be assumed that because the child is a minor he or she does not know what was done. That is the assumption of others).
Duterte said the first step in determining the guilt of a child who is in trouble with the law is for the court to issue a ruling on whether or not the accused is capable of distinguishing a right act from the wrong.
She pointed out that many minors already enjoy “very free and open” access to mass media, including television, internet, thus, they have a wide awareness of what is criminal or not.
The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading House Bill 8858 which seeks to amend the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 by reducing the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12 years.
However, the Senate has yet to pass its own version of the measure.
Mindoro Oriental Rep. Doy Leachon, chairman of the House Committee on Justice and principal sponsor of HB 8858, remained hopeful that the Senate will approve its MACR version when regular session resumes in May.