Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Finalists to outstanding students search reject jail for 9-year-old law breakers
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 20 (PNA) —- A bill in Congress that seeks to set the minimum age for criminal liability from 15 years old to 9 years old was met with disapproval by finalists to the search for “10 Outstanding Bicolano Students” or TOBS.

The finalists, who were selected by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and AKO BICOL Partylist representatives from among nominees from various private and state colleges and universities in the Bicol region, gave their views on a wide range of legislative measures currently being debated in Congress during interviews sessions held with Legazpi City-based media persons Monday.

Among the key issues in Congress that were raised by the media persons to the finalists were the restoration of the death penalty, condom distribution in schools to curb teenage pregnancy and the change in form of government from the presidential to federalism system.

The media persons, most of them affiliated with the Kapisanan ng Broadkaster sa Pilipinas, and working for provincial, regional and national media outfits are engaged in multi-media platforms such as print, radio, television, social media and online.

TOBS opened its search to Bicolano students enrolled in different higher education institutions, within and outside of the Bicol region, who have shown exemplary performance in scholarship, leadership and service.

Like most of her co-finalists in the search, Cristia Shiena S. Amparo, a graduating student of Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education from University of Nueva Caceres (UNC) in Naga City, Camarines Sur, believes fixing the minimum age for criminal liability to 9 years old is harsh.

House Bill 2 (HB 2) or the “Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility Act,” which is authored by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Capiz Representative Fredenil Castro, sets the minimum age for criminal liability at 9 years old.

The measure seeks to amend the “Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006” or Republic Act 9344 which sets the minimum age for criminal liability at 15 years old.

“As a future educator it (HB 2) is harsh as scientific studies have shown that the full maturity of a person sets in only at the age of 25,” said Amparo.

She said a nine-year-old child is not expected to have full knowledge of the consequences of his actions.

Amparo said a 9-year-old, who tangles with the law, does not need punishment but “guidance from the family and government.”

Eric P. Mirabueno, a finalist from Camarines Sur Polytechnic College, asserted that “children are not criminals and need protection instead” from the country’s laws.

He said government intervention is needed for the so-called children in conflict with the law or CICL as described in HB2.

According to Atty. Rodulfo Verzosa, Albay district warden and legal hearing officer of the Bureau of Jail and Management Penology (BJMP) in Bicol, as of January 2017, they have 18 CICL, “five of whom became of age of majority while under detention."

He said Albay BJMP has 12 CICLs; Camarines Norte BJMP-2 CICLs; Camarines Sur BJMP-3 CICLs and Sorsogon BJMP-1 CICL.

Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr., one of three representatives of the regional AKO Bicol partylist group in Congress, said he will pose strong opposition to HB 2 in Congress.

Aside from Garbin, AKB is also represented in Congress by Rep. Rodel Batocabe and Rep. Christopher Co. AKB which is a regional political party that seeks to improve the lives of Bicolano people always gets the maximum number of three seats for partylist representatives in Congress during elections.

“As people we must respect and uphold human rights, including the rights of those who cannot stand up and adequately defend themselves," said Garbin.

He said the country must strive to follow all local and international laws, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is already part of the law of the land.

The final 10 winners to the annual search, that was first introduced in 2009, will be awarded on March 9 at Bicol University here with Senator Juan Edgardo "Sonny" M. Angara as guest speaker.

CHED and AKB said TOSB aims to recognize the hard work and contribution of Bicolano students in local and national development, a vision shared by the two award-giving bodies.

The 20 finalists to the search are: In Iriga City, University of Northeastern Philippines or UNEP--Meagan Alexis A. Almasco and Danielle Penelope C. Jebulan, Betsy S. Casyao and Katherine Princess Vista; and University of Saint Anthony (USANT)--Monique L. Gozun, Romeo Sotto, Elijah Louise Tanay, Kevin S. Monge and Claudette B. Mora.

Charles Michael G. Salas, Eric P. Mirabueno of Camarines Sur Polytechnic Colleges; Critia Shiena S. Amparo, Juvin M. Durante, and Christine Mae Valecia—all from University of Nueva Caceres or UNC in Naga City.

Rio Nino D. Sumallo of Computer Communication Development Institute or CCDI in Sorsogon.

Karen Daniele Besmonte of Aquinas University of Legazpi or AUL, Christiane Romano of Bicol University, Karen Segovia of Divine World College of Legazpi (DWCL)—all schools in Legazpi City.

John II B. Pielego of Ligao Community College in Ligao City and Mika H. Ramos of Mariners Polytechnic College Foundation.

The final 10 winners in the search will be chosen on the basis of scholarship-3 points, leadership -2.0 points, service- 2.0 points, and essay/interview-3 points. (PNA) LAP/GVR/CBD