CHILDREN are just props for politicians who use them to win votes. Pose with them, share laughs, hold their hands, walk with them along shanties, or listen to them sing about swimming in a sea of trash.
Even our President had a billboard in this city of him kissing a toddler, with a quote: “You are investing in the future of your children.”
But on Monday, Jan. 21, politicians in Congress voted to lower the minimum age of children to be charged of crime down to age nine and can be sent to jail.
For the state, the young are potential criminals. Especially those who loiter on the streets; sniff rugby; swipe coins from jeepneys; climb trucks; and grab stuff. Better to scare them now, or scare their parents too. This is how politicians think about the future of the children, in this era of the iron fist rule.
It is ironic this Congress wants to punish the young, who are mostly poor, when many politicians are growing old and wily in the art of corrupting pork which could have helped in building schools and services to keep them off the streets.
Enrile is turning 95, Imelda is 89, Estrada, 81, Arroyo, 71. They are not the best examples of leaders. Yet we see them get charged with stealing pork and spend time in jail yet get away free and remain in power.
But the bigger crime the state has committed is the one of state abandonment. The state actually has two ways to address crime: to punish or to correct.
On children caught as offenders, the Juvenile Justice Law deems that children are still young to discern, hence, the minimum age of children responsible for their action is set at 15.
The children rights group Salinlahi points out that the state has failed in the corrective aspect in handling children in conflict with the law.
Only 35 of 114 mandated Bahay Pag-asa are operational nationwide, and some are managed by local government units and non-government organizations. Statistics show that only two percent of crimes are committed by children, and the better action is to help them.
These are dark times indeed. When children are seen as potential offenders. When Lumad children are seen as potential rebels. When students who raise questions are branded as ideologues.
The government has forgotten its duty to serve, and instead think scaring the public to blind obedience is the best remedy. This government, or this system, has turned blind to our future. It is time for us to see a better way out of this rut.