Despite stiff opposition from human rights groups, the committee on justice of the House of Representatives approved on Monday a controversial bill lowering the age of criminal liability from 15 years old to 9 years old.
The committee’s approval of the substitute bill was near-unanimous with the only objection coming from Agusan del Norte Rep. Lawrence Fortun.
The body quickly approved the motion of Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro to have the bill approved for plenary consideration.
Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas initially objected but was overruled as she’s not a member of the panel.
Oriental Mindoro Rep. Doy Leachon defended the bill during his opening remarks, saying it intended to protect children from being used by ruthless and unscrupulous criminal syndicates to evade prosecution and punishment.
Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was present during the deliberations.
She called an executive session ahead of the hearing.
“Let it be understood that we are not putting these children in jail but in reformative institutions,” Leachon said.