Editorial: Compassion

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WE, ADULTS, are selfish. We envision a dystopian society where, instead of helping and educating the little kids, we make laws and amendments that allow them jail time.

Young kids ought to be playing outside the house or in the park. Yet, adults meet in a huge room plotting ways to punish these children. We are betraying our future generation and we don’t even stop to reconsider. A society whose children are threatened is generally an unsafe community.

From the 15-year old minimum age of criminal liability in the Philippines, it is being proposed to be lowered down to nine years old.

This has been approved on the committee level of the House of Representatives. Different non-government organizations and human rights groups had since been vocal against this. But what is disturbing is the number of people online who has the audacity to defend this bill.

We would like to interpret their defense and reason to poke against these minors who commit crimes like pickpocketing, homicide, rape, theft, and so many other horrible things we could not imagine a minor could do since there are actual cases of these in the country.

There is a story that is posted again and again online that is appropriate to be shared now: When your nails grow long, you cut your nails and not your fingers. Same is true with this case. When we have a growing population of children in conflict with the law, we don’t imprison them, we do not punish them. We educate them, we educate their parents to raising children properly and we make their environment more conducive to living. We don’t run away from the consequences of poor parenting and poor discipline and dump the burden to the innocent children.

The Psychological Association of the Philippines released a position paper last Monday, January 21, on this issue specifically pointing out the reasons why they are against this bill. Anchored on scientific research and results, they pointed out that the decision-making skills of the children and the adolescents vary greatly from that of the adults’.

“Significant changes in brain anatomy and activity are still taking place in the (prefrontal) regions that govern impulse control, decision-making, long-term planning, emotion regulation, and evaluation of risks and rewards. These abilities, which are involved in criminal behavior, do not fully form until young adulthood, making young people especially vulnerable to engaging in risky behavior,” read the organization’s position paper.

Moreover, they underscored that children and adolescents are vulnerable to coercion. They still value the approval of adults and the sense of belongingness. This desire may lead them to giving up to pressure as well. Lastly, a Filipino child in conflict with the law is actually victimized and disadvantaged. What these children need is help and not punishment.

During these trying times, the children do not have voices of their own. Some, if not most of them, rely on adults to decide for their future. Some may not even know what we, adults, are up to right now.

How do we face our children and their children’s children when they grow up old enough to ask, “Why did you allow this to happen? Why didn’t you do anything?”


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