House shifts gears: From ‘criminal’ to ‘social’ responsibility but term has another meaning

January 24, 2019 - 5:48 PM
Juvenile Justice Law
Should children be held criminally responsible? A new legislation being heard at the House of Representatives seeks to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 12 years old. (Devanath/CC0)

The House of Representatives changed its proposed minimum age for children considered criminally liable from 15 years old to 12 years old and changed the term “criminal responsibility” to “social responsibility.”

The term “social responsibility,” however, refers to a different discipline or school of thought than what is being defined in the measure.

The move was purportedly in response to outcry against the earlier version of House Bill 8858 which sought to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility, or MACR, to 9 years old. On second reading, the lawmakers lowered it instead to 12 years old and swiftly passed the bill via viva voce within only two days of deliberations.

Former Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te questioned the changing of term into “social responsibility” when the context of the bill is still the same, that is, lowering the MACR.

He also suggested that it was the lawmakers’ ploy all along to make the people believe that lowering the current MACR from 15 to 12 is better.

“Float a bill that is so horribly monstrous, like the one lowering the MACR from 15 to 9, so that anything else, like increasing 9 to 12, would be better and a huge victory,” he said on Twitter.

Veteran journalist Inday Espina-Varona pointed out that the real problem is in holding younger children accountable rather than strengthening the existing law.

“It’s the entire framework, the premise of a bill law that seeks to impose the burden of accountability on children,” Varona tweeted.

The concept of ‘social responsibility’

When you say social responsibility, it is often related to the business concept of corporate social responsibility or CSR wherein companies are encouraged to integrate “social and environmental concerns” in their operations.

According to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization or UNIDO, the goal of CSR for organizations is to make them sustainable.

“The perspective taken is that for an organization to be sustainable, it must be financially secure, minimize (or ideally eliminate) its negative environmental impacts and act in conformity with societal expectations,” the UNIDO said.

The term “social responsibility” is usually tied with corporate ethics, specially those which relate with environment, sourcing, stakeholder engagement, employee working conditions, human rights and the like.

In the present form, the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 prescribes that children between the ages 12 and 15 at the time of committing the serious offense shall be subjected to an intervention program in a youth care facility or “Bahay Pag-asa,” otherwise called Intensive Juvenile Intervention and Support Center.

House Bill 8858, however, includes children who are below 12 years old at the time of the commission to be deemed in conflict with the law.