Groups hit lowering age of criminal liability

DIFFERENT groups from the private and government sectors in the Cordillera are voicing out their protest over moves to lower the age of criminal liability for children to 9–year-old.

Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat said some members of Congress both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate have started to tackle lowering the age of criminal liability of offenders who may commit crimes under the Revised Penal Code and some special laws.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez recently filed a bill lowering the age of criminality in the country which will be subject of public hearings and debate.

Baguilat said the lowering of age of criminal liability is something to discuss.

“This should not be in effect because the government is lacking in terms of enforcement and protection to the people that is why crimes are committed anywhere where some offenders are minors,” he said.

The lawmaker said the government should exerted efforts first in providing basic services such as work for the people, including providing free basic education to the youth as a means to deter crime.

Since its enactment in 2006, there have been repeated attempts to amend the Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act (JJWA) to revert the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) to nine.

This 17th Congress, the Law was again being threatened with six bills supporting the measure filed in the Lower House. The bills have already been heard by the sub-committee on Correctional Reforms and are expected to pass soon.

Child rights advocates oppose this move, as it would be detrimental to the best interests of children in conflict with the law (CICL) and would impede their rights to survival and development.

Studies show criminalizing children encourages re-offending and even increases violent offending. Detention and incarceration of children have also been linked to adverse effects on a child’s mental, physical and emotional development, education, and future employment.

The proposals to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility also ignore scientific evidence that a child’s brain is structurally and functionally immature, which influences their decision-making and increases their tendency to engage in risky behaviors during adolescence.

According to Unicef Social Policy Specialist Anjanette Saguisag, under the Convention on the Right of Children (CRC), legislators should think well in passing a law which will affect the rights of the children.

The CRC has provided a child should be protected in all forms of violations or abuses that will be inflicted and all laws to be implemented should be in favor to best interest of the child.

From 1995 to 2000, 10,515 children were arrested and detained every year and 9 year olds were held to the same punishment as adults.

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