Groups in Davao protest lowering age of criminal liability

VARIOUS organizations in Davao City are against the lowering the age of criminal responsibility from 15 years old to nine years old, as proposed in the amendments to Republic Act No. 9344 of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006.

Lawyer Romeo Cabarde of Ateneo Public Interest and Legal Advocacy (Apila) believes that children who committed crimes at a very young age are only victims of circumstances.

“We understand the predicament and frustration of our society when we see our children being involved in crimes and other activities that abuse and disregard the rights of others. But, we believe that children in those situation, more especially those that are deprived of the protection and care owed to them by the state, the community and their parents, are also victims of the circumstance,” Cabarde said in a press conference on Monday, September 12, during Kapehan sa Dabaw at SM City.

Davao del Norte Representative Pantaleon Alvarez filed House Bill 002 that seeks to amend RA 9344 as amended by Republic Act No. 10630.

The bill is “a policy of the state to ensure that the Filipino youth shall be taught to accept responsibility for their words and deed as early as possible, and not to unduly pamper them with impunity from criminal responsibility upon reaching the age of nine years.”

Contrary to the bill, Apila does not promote impunity but instead responsibility.

They also said that present measure will only ensure incarceration and punishment of the children but will not guarantee their rehabilitation and development.

Cabrera mentioned that House Bill 001 of the restoration of Death penalty has already proposed and HB 002 is already down the line, chances are, children in the coming days might already be on the list of the criminals subject for punishment.

“It’s a very deadly combination if you have death penalty and reducing the age of criminal responsibility. We might see one of these days children being sent to the death row in the country,” he said.

According to him, their basic call right now to the government is to provide the full and effective implementation of RA 9344 as amended by RA No. 10630 and give it time to mature before again amending it.

“Let’s see the full extent of the law. Along the way the study its impact and effects to our community, to the crime rates and to our children in general before we can even think of any amendments.

He also said that the proposal is only according to the “impulse” of the law maker and not base on a study or a research their reason of its amendment.

He urged them to present their studies that would support their claims that at nine years old, a child is already discerning.

“We have to repair the system that includes the family, church, school and the government and all social institution. Sabinga it takes a village to raise a child,” he added.

Apila together with ACT for Children Alliance and Davao organization of Youth against Child Trafficking (DoYouAct) has been firm with their stand in disapproving the bill noting that it will only generate more harm than benefits for the children.

DoYouAct President Jaziel Senadjan called on the government to launched comprehensive programs or interventions for the children who committed crimes.
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