STATEMENT: PLCPD calls on House Justice Committee to approve bill strengthening Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act

August 17, 2017

On August 16, members of the Committee on Justice decided to defer action on the pending approval of the “Expanded Juvenile Justice System Act,” a substitute bill that retains the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) at 15 years old and seeks to strengthen the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act. This move was due to Rep. Toby Tiangco’s reservations on the provision allowing the commitment of children in conflict with the law (CICL) aged 9 to 11 to the Bahay Pag-asa, a youth care facility that caters to CICL. This led to a discussion on the importance of defining interventions that are age-appropriate, addressing the needs of specific age groups.

The Committee on Justice stressed that the MACR will be retained at 15, but that a formal letter containing the changes to the said provision must be submitted to the Sub-Committee on Correctional Reforms which will then incorporate the revisions before the Justice Committee’s deliberation. This was agreed upon in order to avoid any further delays to the passage of the bill.

The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) recognizes this as a positive shift in discourse wherein discussion has veered away from lowering the MACR and towards prioritizing the rights of the child. We remain hopeful that this decision will only enhance the bill and ensure its quick passage.

PLCPD will remain vigilant against any and all moves to lower the MACR and will continue to advocate for rehabilitative—instead of punitive—measures, age-appropriate intervention, and accountability.

We urge legislators and stakeholders to see this bill through to the Committee on Justice and the plenary and to commit to legislation that upholds the best interests of the child.