KABATAAN Party-list Representative Sarah Elago condemned the passage of the bill lowering the age of criminal liability to nine years old, saying it will not solve the increasing number of crimes involving children.
“The railroaded of this ruthless measure does not solve the problem of children committing crimes; it instead distracts us from the real reasons why children offend such as poor parenting and supervision, peer pressure, social isolation, family conflict, and poverty,” said Elago in a statement following the House committee on justice’s approval of the substitute bill lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR).
Elago said lowering the age of criminal liability will result in negative consequences for children, especially if they end up in jail and are detained together with adults.
“Imprisoning children harms their mental, emotional and physical well being and destroys their future,” she said.
Elago branded the move of the justice panel as a “state-sponsored child abuse” and “an attack on children’s rights.”
Just like Elago, ACT Teachers Representative France Castro urged the Duterte administration to address the underlying factors as to why there are children in conflict with the law.
"There are already great amounts of data that show that a lower MACR does not result in lower crime rates," Castro said.
“Other nations with a lower age of criminal responsibility did not see a significant reduction in the incidence of crime involving children,” she added.
Castro said if Duterte wants to lower crime rates, he should instead ensure that every child is able to ensure that children will have quality education, quality health care and adequate housing.
She said the government should also increase the salaries of the parents of these children.
Gabriela Representative Arlene Brosas, for her part, said by pushing for the lowering of criminal age, the House leadership is setting forth the “mass arrest” of children that are victims of poverty.
"Lowering the criminal age to nine will breed generations of Filipinos whose innocence and morals will be corrupted inside neglected state facilities. Instead of solving rising criminality, this will only perpetuate the problem and will wrongfully stigmatize and put the blame on children rather than rehabilitate them," she added.
Gabriela Representative Emmi de Jesus found the move of the justice panel ironic, saying big-time plunderers and criminals run free under the Duterte administration.
Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin, for his part, said it is “insane” that the controversial measure will be passed into law.
“Putting children under our much-flawed criminal justice system condemns them to a life of crime and punishment. Instead of a welfare system that won't stigmatize and isn't punitive in approach, we imprint on their minds that society see them as criminals,” he said.
“The justice committee’s haste to have this bill pass without scientific, evidence-based and factual basis shows how Congress turned into becoming a bully. It is totally insane that such bill should be passed into law,” said Villarin. (Keith A. Calayag/SunStar Philippines)