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.”


Massive blackout hits tens of millions in South America

A vendor waits for customers during a national blackout, in Buenos Aires, Argentina June 16, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 30 min 6 sec ago
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Massive blackout hits tens of millions in South America

  • The subsidies were a key part of the electricity policy of President Néstor Kirchner’s 2003-2007 administration and the presidency of Kirchner’s wife and successor, Cristina Fernández in 2007-2015

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina: A massive blackout left tens of millions of people without electricity in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay on Sunday in what the Argentine president called an “unprecedented” failure in the countries’ power grid.
Authorities were working frantically to restore power, and by the evening electricity had returned to 90 percent of the South American country, according to Argentine state news agency Telam. Power also had been restored to most of Uruguay’s 3 million people.
As the sun rose Sunday over the darkened country, Argentine voters were forced to cast ballots by the light of cell phones in gubernatorial elections. Public transportation was halted, shops closed and patients dependent on home medical equipment were urged to go to hospitals with generators.
“This is an unprecedented case that will be investigated thoroughly,” Argentine President Mauricio Macri said on Twitter.
Argentina’s power grid is generally known for being in a state of disrepair, with substations and cables that were insufficiently upgraded as power rates remained largely frozen for years.
The country’s energy secretary said the blackout occurred at about 7 a.m. local time when a key Argentine interconnection system collapsed. By mid-afternoon nearly half of Argentina’s 44 million people were still in the dark.
The Argentine energy company Edesur said on Twitter that the failure originated at an electricity transmission point between the power stations at the country’s Yacyretá dam and Salto Grande in the country’s northeast. But why it occurred was still unknown.
An Argentine independent energy expert said that systemic operational and design errors played a role in the power grid’s collapse.
“A localized failure like the one that occurred should be isolated by the same system,” said Raúl Bertero, president of the Center for the Study of Energy Regulatory Activity in Argentina. “The problem is known and technology and studies (exist) to avoid it.”
Energy Secretary Gustavo Lopetegui said workers were working to restore electricity nationwide by the end of the day.
“This is an extraordinary event that should have never happened,” he told a news conference. “It’s very serious.”
Uruguay’s energy company UTE said the failure in the Argentine system cut power to all of Uruguay for hours and blamed the collapse on a “flaw in the Argentine network.”
In Paraguay, power in rural communities in the south, near the border with Argentina and Uruguay, was also cut. The country’s National Energy Administration said service was restored by afternoon by redirecting energy from the Itaipu hydroelectric plant the country shares with neighboring Brazil.
In Argentina, only the southernmost province of Tierra del Fuego was unaffected by the outage because it is not connected to the main power grid.
Brazilian and Chilean officials said their countries had not been affected.
Many residents of Argentina and Uruguay said the size of the outage was unprecedented.
“I was just on my way to eat with a friend, but we had to cancel everything. There’s no subway, nothing is working,” said Lucas Acosta, a 24-year-old Buenos Aires resident. “What’s worse, today is Father’s Day. I’ve just talked to a neighbor and he told me his sons won’t be able to meet him.”
“I’ve never seen something like this,” said Silvio Ubermann, a taxi driver in the Argentine capital. “Never such a large blackout in the whole country.”
Several Argentine provinces had elections for governor on Sunday, which proceeded with voters using their phone screens and built-in flashlights to illuminate their ballots.
“This is the biggest blackout in history, I don’t remember anything like this in Uruguay,” said Valentina Giménez, a resident of the capital, Montevideo. She said her biggest concern was that electricity be restored in time to watch the national team play in the Copa America football tournament Sunday evening.
Since taking office, Argentine President Macri has said that gradual austerity measures were needed to revive the country’s struggling economy. He has cut red tape and tried to reduce the government’s budget deficit by ordering job cuts and reducing utility subsidies, which he maintained was necessary to recuperate lost revenue due to years-long mismanagement of the electricity sector.
According to the Argentine Institute for Social Development, an average family in Argentina still pays 20 times less for electricity than similar households in neighboring countries.
The subsidies were a key part of the electricity policy of President Néstor Kirchner’s 2003-2007 administration and the presidency of Kirchner’s wife and successor, Cristina Fernández in 2007-2015. Fernandez is now running for vice president in October elections.