MANILA -- Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Monday described the bill seeking to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12 years old as a “pro-poor” measure.
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Sotto says poor will benefit from lowering age of criminal responsibility: May mag-aalaga na sa bata

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MANILA — Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Monday described the bill seeking to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12 years old as a “pro-poor” measure.

In his sponsorship speech for Senate Bill 2198, Sotto said the proposal is not anti-poor, contrary to the claims of some critics, since children in poor families would be taken into state custody to protect their interests when parents are unable to do so.

Sotto cited the principle of parens patriae (parent of the nation), wherein the state acts as the parent of any child or individual who is in need of protection.

“This proposal is pro-poor since children in poor families do not have access to quality education and are being exposed to violence in their own family and communities. The government, through the principle of parens patriae, is stepping in to provide these children with education and training,” Sotto said.

“Their parents failed to attend to the needs of their children and the government, with the proper implementation of the law, will be able to rehabilitate and provide better future for these children as responsible members of the society upon their reintegration,” he added.

He said lowering the age threshold to 12 years old simply means that the government and the state can intervene in conflict situations involving its young citizens, with the end in view of providing them guidance and a chance at reformation.

“We need to snatch our young with force from the snare of the criminal syndicates. We need to seize them from entrapment in the dens of felony and transgression. We need to grab them from the arms of lawlessness and delinquency,” Sotto said.

“Only if we are able to reclaim, seize and grab them now from the paws of gangs and syndicates can we ever hope to rehabilitate our young offenders and prevent them from falling into the abyss of crime,” he added.

Meanwhile, Senator Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate justice committee, said the objective of the proposal is to prepare children to be hardworking, honest, accountable, worthy and successful citizens of the country.

“It is never too early to teach our children accountability, responsibility, respect for the common good, honesty, integrity, and service to the nation,” Gordon said.

While arguing that children should be held accountable for offenses, Gordon stressed that no child will go to jail or a detention center.

The bill proposes that “a child below 12 years of age at the time of the commission of the offense shall be exempt from liability. However, the child shall be subjected to an intervention program pursuant to this Act.”

“A child 12 years of age and above but below 18 years of age shall likewise be exempt from liability and be subjected to an intervention program, unless the child has acted with discernment, in which case such child shall be subjected to the appropriate proceedings in accordance with this Act,” the bill reads.

Those who commit a serious crime would be sent to Juvenile Reformatory Centers, also called “Bahay Pag-asa”, it added.

These serious crimes involve parricide, murder, infanticide, kidnapping, serious illegal detention where the victim is killed or raped; robbery with homicide or rape, destructive arson, rape; or carnapping, where the driver or occupant is killed or raped, or offenses under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 that are punishable by more than 12 years in prison.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development will be responsible for building, funding and operating “Bahay Pag-asa,” the allocations for which will be included in the budget of the DSWD in the annual General Appropriations Act.

Children who do not pose a risk to the community may be allowed to attend schools outside the Bahay Pag-asa, the proposal stated.

They could be released to their parents, foster parents or guardians only on order of the court and after a comprehensive study conducted by the local DSWD officer.

The bill also stated that children below the age of criminal responsibility, in consultation with local DSWD officer, should be released to the custody of his/her parents, guardians or nearest relative.

The penalty for parents of children who committed serious crimes ranges from a minimum of six months and one day to a maximum of six years imprisonment. (PNA)

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Twitter to boot users who persist with Covid-19 lies

Twitter said Monday it will start labeling misleading tweets about Covid-19 vaccines and boot users who persist in spreading such misinformation.

The one-to-many messaging service introduced a “strike system” that will gradually escalate to a permanent ban after the fifth offending tweet.

“We believe the strike system will help to educate the public on our policies and further reduce the spread of potentially harmful and misleading information on Twitter,” the San Francisco-based company said in a blog post.

“Particularly for repeated moderate and high-severity violations of our rules.”

Twitter users will be notified when a tweet is labeled as misleading or needs to be removed for breaking the platform’s rules, earning a strike, according to the company.

The second and third strikes will each result in the violating account being blocked for 12 hours.

With a fourth violation, an account will be sidelined for seven days. A fifth strike will get accounts permanently suspended, Twitter said.

Twitter late last year began calling on users to remove dangerously misleading Covid-19 claims, including suggestions that vaccines are used to harm or control people.

The service also targeted baseless claims about adverse effects of vaccines or questioning the reality of the pandemic.

Since then, Twitter has removed more than 8,400 tweets and notified some 11.5 million accounts worldwide about violations of its Covid-19 information rules.

The strike system is similar to what Twitter applies to election-related misinformation, which led to former US president Donald Trump being permanently banned for repeated violations, including language that the platform said could incite violence and questioning the integrity of the voting process.

Covid-19 vaccination campaigns are taking place in many countries in an effort to keep people healthy and return to pre-pandemic lifestyles.

YouTube and Facebook are among the online platforms that have taken steps to fight the spread of lies about the pandemic and vaccines.

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Tokyo asks China to end Covid-19 anal swabs for Japanese

Japan has asked China to avoid using anal swabs to test its citizens for coronavirus, saying the method prompted complaints of “psychological distress”.

Tokyo’s intervention comes after reports that US diplomatic personnel in China had complained of being subjected to the intrusive tests — a claim Beijing denied.

China, which has largely brought the virus under control domestically, said last month that anal swabs can be more effective than normal throat and nose tests as the virus can linger longer in the digestive system.

But Japanese government spokesman Katsunobu Kato said late Monday that Tokyo had made a formal request through its embassy in Beijing that people arriving from the country be exempted.

“Our embassy requested Japanese citizens be excluded from anal PCR tests, as some Japanese expatriates… expressed the opinion that the tests produce significant psychological distress,” Kato said.

“At this point we have not received a response that they change this… We will continue pressing the issue,” he added, noting that there was no information that any other country was using the method.

Asked about the complaint, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Beijing’s testing methods were “science-based” and “in accordance with the changes in the epidemic situation as well as relevant laws and regulations”.

Last month, US media said State Department personnel in China had complained about the method, but Beijing rebuffed the reports, saying it had “never requested US diplomatic personnel in China to undergo anal swabs”.

Officials in China have used anal swabs to test people it considers at high-risk of contracting Covid-19, including residents of neighbourhoods with confirmed cases as well as some international travellers.

But they have acknowledged it would be hard to use anal swabs as widely as the other methods, which have been used to test millions in mass campaigns, as the technique was “not convenient”. Agence France-Presse

Philippines fires diplomat whose maid attacks were caught on film

The Philippines has sacked its former ambassador to Brazil, after she was caught on camera attacking a domestic worker at her official residence in Brasilia.

Marichu Mauro was recalled to Manila late last year after Brazil’s GloboNews channel broadcast security camera footage filmed over eight months showing her repeatedly assaulting a member of her household staff.

The career diplomat has now been dismissed from the foreign service, President Rodrigo Duterte told a television audience on Monday.

“There are rules to be followed. If you disobey, you take the risk. If something goes wrong, it’s gonna hit you,” Duterte said.

Mauro’s firing means she will lose her pension. She is also barred from standing for public office.

According to GloboNews, the Filipino worker was employed at the ambassador’s official residence, a large gated compound in Brazil’s capital.

Footage of the abuse — dated between March and October 2020 — was used as evidence in a complaint lodged with the Philippine government against Mauro, it said.

Mauro was posted to Brazil in 2018, from where she oversaw the missions to Colombia, Guyana, Suriname and Venezuela.

Mauro has not responded to AFP’s request for comment on her dismissal.

Millions of Filipinos escape low wages, unemployment and limited opportunities at home by going overseas, including as to become domestic workers. Their remittances are vital to the local economy.

But many of these workers face difficult or dangerous conditions, and reports of physical or psychological abuse are not uncommon, though most instances involve foreign employers. Agence France-Presse

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