AROUND 70 stakeholders attended the regional press briefing on the lowering of the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) Friday at Grand Men Seng hotel, in a bid to promote their united stand in opposing the bill which seeks to adjust the criminal liability from 15 to 9 years old.

Representatives from various non-government organizations (NGOs), Civil Society Organizations, agencies, and the academe believe that the move would only cause “harm” on the child instead of improvement which was proven by the science-based evidence.

According to Akbayan representative Tom Villarin in his presentation that in the Philippine National Police data from 2006 to 2012, almost 98 percent of the crimes were committed by adult while the children only accounted for 2 percent.

He stressed that children are only “victims” and not criminals, who most of the time are only used by crime syndicates and are susceptible to coercion.

The Mindanao Action Group for Children’s Rights and Protection, an NGO working for the protection of Children in Mindanao and a member of Child Rights Coalition expressed their disapproval of the bill.

The group stressed that such move does not only undermine the best interest of the child but will also ultimately condemn all children who commit crimes in the country and would create a life-long stigma among the children.

“Lowering the MACR will not solve the problem of children committing crimes, nonetheless it distracts us from the root causes why children have become offenders,” they said.

They also cited that the government should instead focus on addressing the origin of the problem like the poor parenting practices and supervision, peer pressure, social dysfunctional family, and poverty that haunted the children, prompting them to commit crimes.

Davao Act for Children’s Right President Jaziel Sinadjan lambasted the House bill 02, authored by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, saying this will only expose the children to a violent environment.

He said that the government should instead shift its effort for the full implementation of the Republic Act No. 9344, as amended by RA 10630 and protect the interest of the vulnerable.

Act for Children Bernardo Mondragon, for his part, pointed out his apprehension that jail facilities nationwide are crowded and if the bill would be passed, then children will likewise suffer from this condition.