AFTER I finished settling my bills at Pag-Ibig Office inside Ororama Mall yesterday, I decided to make few purchases at the adjacent department store. While I was looking for my right fit, I noticed a kid wearing tattered clothes and looking very dirty also digging into a pile of merchandise just a few steps away. He was probably about 9 to 11 years old and he looked quite undernourished.
I thought I could make his day by offering to pay whatever he plans to buy and so I went to his direction but to my surprise, he was at the act of hiding a handful of accessories into his armpit. So I told him “Ayaw tawon ana dong, madakpan ka.” In no time he managed to be out of my sight. I wasn’t even sure if he returned those items and so I just notified one of the sales ladies of what I saw.
Yesterday (January 21) as well, Congress approved a bill that seeks to lower the age of criminal liability from 15 to 9 years old. What a perfect timing. If the kid I mentioned was arrested yesterday, he would already be considered a criminal. Nine years old, a criminal, really? Everything is just so wrong about that.
In ethics, one can be considered accountable of an action if he has full knowledge of the act and he is free when he committed the action. A lot of 18-year-old kids still do not even have the discerning capacity to assess their actions, much more a nine year old child. And without full knowledge of the implications of the actions, the will to choose is simply compromised. Much more from a child who was raised on the streets by unfortunate circumstances and most likely has little if not no adult supervision at all to teach him right from wrong.
I am one with the government in recognizing the growing problem of children in conflict with the law. But labeling them as criminals and subjecting them to the law like full grown adults are surely not the solution at all. The crimes these children commit reflect more on our failures as adults than their capacity to distinguish right from wrong.
The crimes of children in conflict with the law are a bold cry for help. It shows we have not been giving them proper formation and protection that their innocence have been corrupted already at such an early age. The accountability of crimes committed by minors should fall more on the shoulders of the parents and guardians who failed to monitor their kids as well as failed to form them to be law abiding citizens.
A child needs food, shelter, and clothes. A child needs love and protection. A child needs education and guidance. Among all that a child needs, a correctional facility is surely not one of them.
I do not know what happened now to the kid I just saw yesterday. But I sure hope his parents, if he ever has any, will come to notice his lack of values on respect for other people’s things as well as on honesty. From the looks of it, it was a crime of poverty. And on this note, I hope the programs of both the local and national government would reach to him and his family so that he will have a chance to grow and become an asset of our community instead of becoming a liability.