Philippines cuts age of criminal liability from 15 to 12

President Rodrigo Duterte speaks in front of housewives and mothers, that participate in the anti-illegal drugs campaign of the provincial government and Duterte's war on drugs at Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga province, Philippines December 22, 2016. (REUTERS)
Updated 23 January 2019
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Philippines cuts age of criminal liability from 15 to 12

  • Earlier vote to set age at 9 overturned
  • Human rights groups slam the decision

MANILA: A controversial decision by lawmakers in the Philippines to lower the country’s age of criminal liability to 12, has been slammed by human rights groups.
The move on Wednesday overturns a recommendation last week to slash the current minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) from 15 to 9 years old.
Opponents of the bill, seen as a key part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign to crack down on crime, said the decision would only worsen the plight of Filipino children. 
Lawmakers approved the proposed bill during a second reading, after it was initially passed by the House of Representatives’ committee on justice last Monday, saying it would better protect children from criminal exploitation.
International watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticized the proposed measure. Its representative in Asia, Carlos Conde, told Arab News: “If the Senate makes good on its promise to pass this version and it is signed into law by the president (Duterte), this would no doubt worsen the plight of Filipino children caught up in the justice system.”
Conde pointed out that children in the Philippines aged between 14 and 9, already face “mandatory confinement” of up to 12 years for committing murder, kidnapping and taking vehicles, and a range of drug-related crimes.
“Children in the Philippines have already been subjected to the extreme violence of Duterte’s ‘drug war,’ with police and government agents killing dozens during anti-drug operations for being suspected drug users or the pawns of drug dealers,” added Conde.
“The proposed law will not only stigmatize children even more, it will turn them into scapegoats in the government’s abusive anti-crime campaign.”
The Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights (CHR) also slammed the proposed bill and said that “punishing children for the crime and abuse of syndicates and other people is against the state’s responsibility to look after the interests and welfare of children.”
Julius Cainglet, advocacy committee chairman of the country’s National Child Labor Committee (NCLC), said: “We should not punish our own children for society’s failure to care for them properly. This (the bill) would be a major setback for our internationally-renowned efforts at ending child labor.”
House of Representatives’ Assistant Majority Leader Rep. Michael Romero said the proposed measure was in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child’s ruling on MACR. He said 12 years old was a “just and appropriate” minimum age of criminal liability but added that 9 years old was “simply too young.”
Rep. Doy Leachon, chairman of the House committee on justice, said that during the period when the minimum age of criminal responsibility in the country had been 15, there had been a huge rise in crime committed by children.
“This bill was brought about by the alarming increase in the number of criminal syndicates using minors to carry out criminal acts,” Leachon said. “It is time to pass this bill in order to protect our children from being used by ruthless and unscrupulous criminal syndicates to evade prosecution and punishment.”


Many Indians rally behind Modi after Kashmir attack

Updated 27 min 32 sec ago
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Many Indians rally behind Modi after Kashmir attack

  • Tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals have ratcheted up
  • Modi has been blamed for weak rural incomes and an inability to provide employment to the millions of young Indians entering the job market each year

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has suffered a series of political reverses in recent months but widespread anger after 40 troopers were killed in an Islamist militant attack last week could lead to a surge in support for his Hindu nationalist party.
As emotions run high following the deadliest attack on security forces in decades, Modi, who faces a general election by May, said he had given a free hand to security forces to avenge the killings in Kashmir, the region disputed with arch-foe Pakistan.
Tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals have ratcheted up and shouts of “down with Pakistan” and “blood for blood” have reverberated at funerals of the victims. Many Indians have held candle-lit marches across the country demanding the government “not forget, not forgive.”
The attack has been claimed by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad militant group but the Pakistan government has denied any responsibility.
Rakesh Kumar, a 32-year-old part-time teacher in Kasba Bonli town in the western state of Rajasthan, said he was now inclined to vote for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the national election after backing the main opposition Congress in a state vote late last year.
“If he teaches Pakistan a lesson, support for him will rise,” Kumar said in a telephone interview. “It’s a matter of the country’s security, and we need to see what he can do for us.”
The BJP was ousted from power in three major states, including Rajasthan, in December, and Modi has been blamed for weak rural incomes and an inability to provide employment to the millions of young Indians entering the job market each year.
Although still tipped to win, pollsters had said before the attack that the ruling party could fall short of a majority in the general election.
No polls have been published since the attack, but political analysts say the anti-Pakistan wave has become a rallying point for the BJP.
Yogendra Yadav, a former pollster and now a political activist, said the Kashmir attack would be a distraction from economic challenges facing the government.
“Ever since those issues have emerged, there have been systematic attempts to divert attention, some by design, some by accident,” he said.
“The consequence (of the attack) would be to bring the spotlight on issues of national security, which is exactly what the ruling party may have wanted.”
No compromise
The BJP has not lost time in underlining its nationalist credentials. Addressing a political rally on Sunday, party president Amit Shah ended a brief period of bipartisan politics by saying that Modi was better at responding to militant attacks than the previous government headed by Congress.
“This time it’s not a Congress government that is in power. The BJP government of Narendra Modi does not do any compromise in matters of national security,” Shah said to loud cheers.
“The BJP government will completely uproot terrorism. Narendra Modi’s political will to finish terrorism is the highest among global leaders.”
Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal state and an outspoken critic of Modi, has lashed out at the BJP comments.
“We didn’t raise any questions (about the attack) because we thought we will be united in the fight (against terror),” she told reporters. “But now we see that we are silent and they are giving such speeches that it seems only they are patriots and the rest are outsiders.”
Modi has often spoken about adopting a more muscular approach to Pakistan, after a surprise visit to the neighbor in 2015 failed to improve ties.
BJP spokesman Nalin Kohli declined to say if the response to the attack would be an election issue for the party. But he defended party chief Shah’s comments as a reflection of the “national mood of grief and anger.”
In 2016, Indian forces carried out what they called a “surgical strike” on militant targets across the border in Pakistan in retaliation to an attack on an army camp in Kashmir.
Earlier this month, before last week’s attack, Modi said the strike had “shown to the world what will be the new policy and culture in India.”
On Monday, he said any hesitation to take action against militancy and those who support it was akin to encouraging the menace.
“Terrorism is a very serious threat to global peace and stability,” Modi said. “The brutal terrorist attack shows that the time for talks is over.”