Duterte 'comfortable' with minimum age of criminal responsibility at 12

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 23) — Despite criticisms from some lawmakers and experts, President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said he was "comfortable" with the proposed measure lowering the age of criminal responsibility to 12.

"I am comfortable with 12, okay na ako (I'm okay with it)," Duterte told reporters in a chance interview.

House Bill 8858 hurdled the second reading at the House of Representatives on Wednesday afternoon. The proposed measure seeks to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) to 12 -- a sudden turn around from the initial proposal to lower the MACR to 9.

Lawmakers who spent two days debating on the House bill amid backlash from some Senators and child rights advocates -- also agreed on Wednesday to drop the term "criminal responsbility" and changed it to "social responsibility," saying that is to make the measure "acceptable."

Duterte added he would have also been amenable to lowering the age of liability to 9.

The country's chief executive said it would force parents to discipline their children at a young age.

"Kasi ang gusto ko (because what I want is), at that age, pati ang (even) parents must be conscious of the criminal accountability already," the President said.

"Ganoong edad pa lang, pukpukin na because they will be ultimately responsible. Sila 'yung tatamaan eh, any violation of law na ang bata ngayon at nagkulang 'yung supervision at vigilance ng parents, sila idedemanda."

[Translation: At that age, the children should be disciplined because they (parents) will be ultimately responsible. They would be held accountable, any violation of the law by the children would mean the lack of supervision and vigilance by the parents, and they will be sued.]

Meanwhile, Malacañang on Thursday said it wants the bill to include a provision that would sanction "neglectful" parents.

The pending bill does not directly mention any punishment for parents of children who commit heinous crimes.

"I think there should be some kind of punishment also for parents if they are neglectful, either deliberately or recklessly," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said during his media briefing.

"Supposedly the parents are the trainer of children, the molder of children to become righteous individuals and good citizens."

Panelo added the issue on the bill was not really about the age, but the imprisonment of children who commit crimes.

"I agree, you cannot be putting to jail these minors. You have to correct them, rehabilitate them," the spokesperson added.

"Pag kinulong mo 'yan, lalo 'yang mapasama sa mga hardened criminals."

[Translation: If you put them to jail, the more they will be hardened criminals.]

Duterte, in a speech Tuesday, earlier pointed out how children as young as 6 years old were being used by drug syndicates in their operations.

CNN Philippines' Ina Andolong, Alyssa Rola, and Xave Gregorio contributed to this report.