CHILDREN are not criminals.

This was the message that various stakeholders want to convey to lawmakers in Congress in a bid to stop the passage of bills lowering the age of criminal liability to nine years old from 15.

The proponents launched an online signature campaign opposing House Bill 002 seeking to amend the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, including one co-authored by House Speaker Bebot Alvarez and Rep. Fredenil Castro.

They believed that the proposed measure will never deter the exploitation of children by criminal syndicates.

“Criminals will always find ways and means to avoid criminal liability. Lowering the age of criminal responsibility will only make the criminals use younger children,” the Children’s Legal Bureau (CLB) said in a statement.

The House Justice Sub-Committee on Correctional Reforms is currently deliberating at least six bills seeking to amend the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, including HB 002, which was the first such measure filed during the 17th Congress.

While the bill acknowledged that the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 was “laudable” in its main purpose to protect the youth, it failed to deter criminals from using children in crimes, such as drug trafficking and robbery.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development Office, the Commission on Human Rights, various child rights advocates, and even some congressmen are opposing to lower the age of criminal liability from the present 15 to nine years old.

Several groups, including the CLB, United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (Unicef), and the Child Rights Network conducted a forum against the passage of HB 002 at the Capitol Social Hall.

The CLB said that lowering the age of criminal liability to nine years old would only mean that children who commit crimes could already be held liable and penalized by imprisonment.