By Jovee Marie de la Cruz, January 28 2019; Business Mirror

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The House of Representatives is eyeing the approval of a bill lowering the minimum age of social responsibility from 15 to 12 years old and a measure legalizing medical marijuana on Monday.

Majority Leader Fredenil Castro, chairman of the House Committee on Rules, said the lower chamber will approve House Bill (HB) 8858 seeking to lower the minimum age of social responsibility from 15 years old to 12 years old on January 28.

“We will try to pass the bill on minimum age of social responsibility on Monday,” Castro said.

The bill expands the scope of the juvenile justice and welfare system and strengthens the social reintegration programs for children in conflict with the law, amending Republic Act (RA) 9344, or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006.

Under the provisions of the measure, a child under 18 years old who commits a petty crime shall not be subjected to mandatory confinement in a Bahay Pag-asa facility.

The bill also ensures funding for the development of Bahay Pag-asa, a 24-hour child-caring institution to provide short-term residential care for children in conflict with the law.

Mandatory confinement shall be implemented if the crime committed by the child in conflict with the law is a serious offense; if they are neglected children, meaning they do not have a family; or if it is a case of recidivism.

If there is no Bahay Pag-asa facility in the area to cater to the child, they will be temporarily released on recognizance to their parents, the bill said.

Medical cannabis

Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, principal sponsor of HB 6517, or the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis, said the lower chamber is also eyeing the passage of the measure on Monday.

“This week [the bill will be approved on third and final reading], I hope [Monday or before the break on February 6],” he said.

According to Albano, Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, also vowed to conduct hearings on the proposal.

Congress is expected to take a break starting February 6 to May 19, 2019, for the midterm elections.

However, Albano said the measure can still be refiled in the 18th Congress should they fail to approve it.

Castro also confirmed that the House may pass the medical marijuana bill this week.

The bill seeks to amend RA 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

At present, marijuana is tagged as a prohibited substance, just like methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu, cocaine and heroin, under the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

Albano said his proposal seeks to provide compassionate and right of access to medical cannabis and expand research into its medicinal properties.

However, he said the bill should not be deemed in any manner to advocate, authorize, promote, or legally or socially accept the use of cannabis or marijuana for any nonmedical use.

Albano called on his colleagues “to decide based on evidence” citing the numerous clinical trials around the world that have shown the safety and efficacy of cannabis and its therapeutic and palliative effects.

Earlier, Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza warned that the legalization of medical marijuana would open the floodgates to abuse and addiction and create an unwanted public health emergency in the country.