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NO TO LOWERING THE MINIMUM AGE OF CRIMINAL RESPONSIBILITY!

SIGN THE ONLINE PETITION

Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns opposes the proposal to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) of children in conflict with the law (CICL) from 15 years old to 12 years old.

 

The involvement of children in criminal and antisocial activities is truly an issue of grave concern that should and will involve all stakeholders in society.

 

The Juvenile Justice and Welfare law enacted in 2006 sets the legal and operational standards in response to children in conflict with the law and children-at-risk. It is a product of more than a decade of deliberations on evidence-based information and compliance with international laws firmly grounded on the social reality where majority of children are faced with destitution and lack of opportunities for survival and development.

 

The proponents of the amendment to lower down MACR blames the law for emboldening children to be involved in criminal acts. According to them, it gives CICL a free pass. They argue that children, as young as 9 or 12 years old can act with discernment, comprehending fully well the consequences of their actions.

However, a number of studies proving that developmental factors really do come into play on why children get involved in criminal and antisocial activities. For one, the Psychological Association of the Philippines is firm in the following position:

 

“The developmental immaturity of juveniles mitigates their criminal culpability. Although they may be able to discern right from wrong action, it is their capability to act in ways consistent with that knowledge that is compromised by several factors at this stage. Such includes a) deficiencies in decision making capacities; b) heightened vulnerability to coercive circumstances and; c) the disadvantaged environment and profile of the Filipino child in conflict with the law.”

Other data shows that of the total crimes documented in the country, 98% of which are still committed by adults while barely 2% are committed by children – majority of their crimes are robbery and theft of food items, cash which are essential to survive. Lowering the age of criminal liability will create a very minimal impact in terms of curtailing crimes in the country.

 

Unfortunately, most of the detention facilities used to shelter children do not meet the minimum legal requirements for shelters, are seriously overcrowded, understaffed and ill-equipped to meet the needs of children. There are also reports of violence and other forms of abuses within these facilities.

 

We believe that the approval of the bill runs in sharp contrast to the proposal of various stakeholders for the full implementation of RA 9344 (Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act) that promotes restorative justice and recognizes the social context why children commit crimes– poverty, dismal social services, employment of their parents and the lack of child-rearing support from the government.

With this in mind, we are reiterating our call to stop any proposals to lower the age of criminal responsibility. Instead, efforts should be poured towards ensuring adequate and proper implementation of the law.

 

1.    Increase the budget of the primary agencies implementing JJWA including the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC), the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council (JJWC), among others.

2.    Establish more Bahay Pag-Asa and support initiatives that provide for the rehabilitation and reintegration of children in conflict with the law.

3.  Conduct widespread dissemination of the provisions of the JJWA and its implementing rules and regulations coupled with educational campaigns on children’s rights and child development targeting all stakeholders especially law enforcers and service providers.

4.  Undertake a regular comprehensive study of children under intervention programs to assess their condition as well as the rehabilitation programs designed for them.

5.    A nationwide survey of BCPC’s should also be conducted in order to assess the needs for their creation and/or functionalization. BCPCs should design programs that will promote the holistic development of children and youth and encourage their meaningful participation in social affairs.

 

But after all things are said and done, the government should go beyond strengthening the implementation of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act (JJWA) if it is serious in its campaign against criminality. Responsive programs and policies to address poverty, including job generation, genuine land reform and access to free basic social services such as health and education, should be top priority. For as long as children and their families are stuck in the quagmire of poverty, criminal acts, whether by adult or children, will continue to proliferate.