Lowering the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility: An Excuse For Inefficient Policy Implementation

minimum age of criminal responsibility

minimum age of criminal responsibilityAnytime in the next few months, the legislators are about to give the form and shape the face of the future generation of this country. The legislators at the upper house will review and motion for the approval of Lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility in the next few days. Accordingly, some individuals and groups support the amendment of the Juvenile Justice law. However, there are also individuals and groups that stand against the proposal.

I can observe that there is a high percentage of Filipinos that support the lowering of the children’s age to be responsible for criminal acts from 15 to 12 years old. Many individuals help to lower the age to 9 years old.

The reasons for pushing the lowering of the age of criminal responsibility, as stated in House Bill 505:

  • The Children in Conflict of the Law (CICL) are growing in number, and they are becoming bolder and braver
  • Criminal syndicates have capitalized the children as being free from criminal liability
  • Age of children committing a crime is becoming younger
  • Children are prey to unscrupulous and ruthless syndicates

President Rodrigo Duterte himself said fluently that drug dealers use children to look for buyers, to sell shabu and even teaching them how to use drugs.

Lowering the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility, A lame excuse

minimum age of criminal responsibilityGiven the reasons for taking such action only shows that children are just victims of this issue. Many of the parents, teachers, and government officials do not understand that children are not like adults. Children are dependent on adults. Children cannot easily find a decent job because they cannot quickly work in a fair workplace, children cannot vote the top legislators who want to preserve their political careers, and Children have special needs.

Hence, the author of the amendment and the President himself is illustrating that children are “used.” It means that children are victims. Every child has a different and unique situation. Even if the child would not want to do such a crime, but syndicates are probably holding their lives. Children may be living in poverty, and they have no choice.

 

Ultimately, this move of legislators is lame and a sign of weakness:

  • Instead of running after the kids, why not run after those drug syndicates. After all, politicians will be hypocrite enough if they say they don’t know them.
  • Why not address poverty in a long-term perspective. Only stupid and idiots will choose to live a life at risk if you have a decent home and suffice the daily needs of the family
  • Do not waste money in non-sense projects (i.e., waiting sheds); why not invest in teaching parents how to be parents. Do you know that the Philippines is a home of top-most and best parenting speakers? The Government can tap them to train DSWD personnel, barangay key persons, NGOs, church leaders, and others.
  • The child experts have already presented facts and explanation to these senators, and yet they choose not to listen. Policies and actions not based on facts are dangerous.

Top 5 reasons why NOT pass the amendment to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility

No assessment on the implementation of RA 10630

There is no assessment done to see the evidence that there was a failure on the application of RA10630. For example, the “Bahay Pag-as” in most localities fail to implement the standards according to the best interest of the children. Another is the lack of capable social workers and personnel (i.e., lawyers and police officers) in managing child protection issues and providing a protective environment for children

 

No evidence that lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility will lessen crimes involving children

Lawmakers and supporters of the proposed amendment do not have concrete proof that reducing MACR will reduce crimes involving children. I ask some of my friends who passionately support this law, all responses I receive are “What if,” “Baka,” “maybe because it is the President who said it.” Imagine this parent; you will be putting the future in baseless assumptions? Better think and know before giving your support. There is nothing wrong of saying NO.

Government lacks investment in building healthy families

For sure, someone will tell me why you keep on blaming the government for families having internal problems? The answer is—the government is the primary duty bearer. Hence, do not forget the family is the basic unit.

The government must ensure that every family is not only provided with physical needs but also other soft requirements like knowledge and skills.

The problem of the Philippine Society is that the basic unit is already starting to break down to pieces. Broken homes, parents teaching wrong principles to children, and parents become wrong models to children. If this is what your basic unit of the community is made of, what more is your society?

Lack of knowledge and skills among crucial government personnel

Sad to say, only a few from the government ground personnel are receiving enough skills training to do their job, especially on managing child protection cases like CICL.

A year ago, I happened to have a little chit-chat with one of the police officers in a Municipality. The officer is assigned to the Women and Children Protection Desk. The officer is sharing the new knowledge and skills that my project team imparts during our training on child protection. Moreover, it was the first time for the officer to hear, understand, and participate in the discussion of all in-depth analysis with other sectors.

Imagine how many police officers across the country who caters CICL and other child protection cases that do not know the basics. Consequently, after several months from the training, and I took a visit from the officer’s desk and found to improve how the unit caters the child victims.

However, according to the officer, despite that they do their job according to the standards of UNCRC, other government line agencies are still weak enough for not being able to provide the needs for the best interest of the children.

Lack of facilities to cater to the restorative needs of CICL

“Bahay Pag-as” is an institutionalized- corrective facility for CICL that is under the law. There are only 63 Bahay Pag-as across the country, and five of those are no longer operational. Imagine, how many cases of CICL that our police officers are receiving, and yet most of these children end into jail with the adult criminals. Now, one of the readers of this may say, “it is a just right punishment”… here is my take for you buddy, put yourself in jail just for 30 minutes and tell me how it feels.

 

Again, children are the most vulnerable, and the legislators, including the President of this republic, is using the vulnerability of kids to hide their failures of achieving their promises to their blinded voters. Children could not vote for them and limit the space to voice their concerns in local special bodies. Instead of lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility, why not build homes of families, create classrooms, and improve teachers’ support to uplift quality of education, provide long-term income-generating programs (no dole-outs) and improve the essential social services.

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