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.”


Suicide bombers in deadly attack on Afghan ministry

Updated 5 min 53 sec ago
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Suicide bombers in deadly attack on Afghan ministry

  • At least 7 people were killed in the attack on the Afghan communications ministry in Kabul
  • The area around the building was sealed off by police as at least 3 attackers battled security forces for several hours

KABUL: Suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the communications ministry in central Kabul on Saturday, officials said, in a deadly, hours-long assault that destroyed weeks of relative calm in the capital.
The Taliban said it had “nothing to do” with the attack, which left some 2,000 people stranded in the tall office building for hours at the start of the Afghan work week.
No other group claimed immediate responsibility, but the Afghan branch of Daesh has previously carried out multiple deadly attacks in the capital.
“As a result of today’s explosion/attack in Kabul city, two people have been martyred (killed) and 6 others are wounded,” the health ministry spokesman wrote in a tweet, adding 3 of the injured were women.
In a statement, the interior ministry said four civilians and three soldiers had been killed, though unverified social media posts suggested the final toll could be higher.
AFP journalists heard one big blast around 11:40 am (0710 GMT), followed by sporadic gunfire for hours afterwards.
“The information that we have is four attackers have placed themselves near the communication ministry and are engaged in gunbattles with the Afghan security forces,” Amanduddin Shariati, a security official in Kabul told AFP.
By about 5:00 p.m. (1230 GMT), the interior ministry declared the assault over.
“Operations finished. All suicide bombers killed & more than 2000 civilians staff rescued,” the ministry said on Twitter.
Panicked workers inside the 18-story building, believed to be Kabul’s tallest, moved up to the top floor as gunmen and Afghan security officials battled lower down.
One woman said she had been in a group of about 30 people on the 10th floor when the assault started, then was told to move up to the 18th floor as gunfire increased. They were all eventually rescued by commandos.
“Women were screaming and children of the kindergarten were the first to be evacuated,” the woman, who did not want to be named, told AFP.
Afghan authorities gave conflicting reports during the incident. The information ministry initially said three suicide bombers had attacked a post office building at the ministry.
General Sayed Mohammad Roshan Dil, the Kabul police chief, said four attackers had been wearing police uniforms and had targeted a shrine near the ministry.
Footage on local television showed a small plume at the building, and people climbing out windows on a lower level.
The presidential palace said in a statement “the enemies of Afghanistan have conducted a terrorist attack.”
“Once again they have created fear and have killed or wounded a number of innocent countrymen,” the statement read.
The communication ministry is located in downtown Kabul, about two kilometers (1.25 miles) from the green zone, a heavily fortified compound for foreign embassies.
The area is the city’s main commercial zone and is home to a large hotel.
Aside from a grenade attack on a military vehicle last week and persistent crime, the capital has in recent weeks enjoyed a period of relative calm.
Last year however saw a string of attacks including one where a massive bomb concealed in an ambulance killed more than 100 people.
The attack comes a week after the Taliban announced their annual spring offensive and amid ongoing fighting across Afghanistan.
It illustrates the sprawling nature of Afghanistan’s conflict, and the obstacles to peace even if a deal is reached with the Taliban.
This week in the Qatari capital Doha, a summit planned between the Taliban and officials from across Afghanistan was scrapped at the last minute due to bickering over who should attend the conference.
The collapse comes at a critical time and amid continued bloodshed in Afghanistan, where the Taliban now control or influence about half of Afghanistan and 3,804 civilians were killed there last year, according to a UN tally.
Taliban officials are separately negotiating with the United States, which wants to forge a peace deal with the militants.