CHILD rights advocates have gathered at the Kiosko Kagawasan in Divisoria, Cagayan de Oro City, Tuesday, January 22, to oppose the bill lowering the criminal age of responsibility.
Various non-government organizations and students here were mobilized to call on lawmakers to stop the measure, which for them would only do more harm to children.
Iluminada Domingo, executive director of Gugma sa Kabataan and co-chair of the city council for the protection of children, said they would gather signatures and statements from individuals and groups which would be submitted to congress.
She said children are vulnerable and in need of help and a 9-year-old child does not know how to discern the implications of his actions.
"No child commits crime. The child does not understand what is sin, the child easily understand what is a mistake," Domingo said.
"Everybody must unite. It must be stop if we are talking about the rights of a child being protected," she added.
Domingo is instead urging the government to strengthen the so many forms of interventions for children in conflict with the law.
Meanwhile, an official of the Commission on Human Rights-Northern Mindanao (CHR)-Northern Mindanao on Tuesday, January 22, said lowering the criminal age of responsibility would only destroy the future of children instead of curbing criminality involving minors.
CHR-Northern Mindanao legal officer Roschelle Bagas said the human rights commission is instead calling for a full and meaningful implementation of the Comprehensive Juvenile Justice and Welfare System (RA 9344), not lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 to nine years old.
"Kung ipaubos ang criminal age of responsibility mura tag nag back slide ana sa pag-protect sa kabataan and wala pa nato nakita ang full and meaningful implementation of RA 9344 unya ato napud i-amend," Bagas said.
Bagas worries that children in conflict with the law may get a taste of jail and being put in a trial, which would result to lesser opportunities in life.
"Unsaon na lang ang kaugmaon sa mga bata nga maglisod na sila og pangita og trabaho kung naa na silay criminal records," she added.
Bagas said aside from the problem on jail congestion, they have yet to see jail facilities that segregate adult and children offenders.
She explained that there is no study that proves lowering the criminal age of liability would curb and lessen criminality.
"Sa statistics dili pa overwhelming ang crimes committed by children bisan asa pa nga police station. Harsh ra kaayo ni nga measure to curb this and its not commensurate sa kadaghanon sa krimen,"Bagas said.
"Ga-conduct mi og jall visit and wala pami nakita nga selda nga segregated ang adults and children unya grabe pa ang jail congestion. So dako ni nga challenge kung mapriso ang bata," she added.