#ChildrenNotCriminals: Rights groups slam bill lowering age of criminal liability
MANILA, Philippines – Saying that the measure is "not in the best interest" of children, several groups slammed the bill lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 years old to 9 years old. (READ: House panel OKs bill to lower age of criminal liability to 9 years old)
On Monday, January 21, the House committee on justice approved the substitute bill that would amend Republic Act No. 10630, the law that currently retains the minimum age of criminal liability at 15 but allows children as young as 12 to be detained in youth care facilities or Bahay Pag-asa for serious crimes such as rape, murder, and homicide. (READ: Arroyo supports lowering age of criminal liability to 9 years old)
Save the Children Philippines said the move "will only push them to further discrimination, abuse, and eventually, into a more antisocial behavior." (READ: [OPINION] Children's rights pay the price for political gain)
Unicef Philippines also said it is deeply concerned about the bill, describing it as "an act of violence against children."
"Children who are exploited and driven by adults to commit crimes need to be protected, not further penalized.... They should be given a second chance to reform and to rehabilitate," the group said. (READ: Lower age of criminal liability? Here's why psychologists are against it)
The bill would mandate that children 9 to 14 years old who will commit serious crimes – such as murder, parricide, infanticide, serious illegal detention, carnapping, and violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 – be subjected to "mandatory confinement" for rehabilitation at Bahay Pag-asa.
According to Unicef, lowering the age of criminal responsibility would not deter adult offenders from using children to commit crimes.
Below are other statements released by rights groups condemning the measure.
Youth Act Now Against Tyranny
"Instead of criminalizing children, the government should demand accountability from syndicates and address poverty. Children deserve free education, adequate healthcare access, and housing, not liability for something they were forced to do. Making children criminals is not justice but a mere cover-up of the societal problems the government keeps on burdening the people with."
Salinlahi Alliance for Children's Concerns
"Children in conflict with the law together with their families are victims of poverty, hunger, social inequality, and state neglect, but instead of addressing these pressing socioeconomic issues, the Duterte government and his minions in the Philippine Congress are consistent in promoting and pushing for anti-children and anti-people policies."
"This is counterintuitive with the government's intention of providing welfare and well-being to Filipino children and is a violation to the commitments made by the Philippines to adhere to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international treaties on child protection as a principal signatory."
Plan International Philippines
"Aside from the lack of evidence to prove that punishing and incarcerating children will result in crime reduction, scientific studies show that children below the age of 16 do not have the maturity to discern right from wrong."
Philippine Association of Social Workers
"The issue of violence against children including children in conflict with the law (CICL) has severe and lasting negative impact on the affected children's biophysical, psychoemotional, mental, and socioeconomic conditions."
"The urban poor sector will once again be the prime target of this anti-poor policy. As if the tens of thousands killed in the war on drugs and the everyday hardships of the poor aren't enough."
At the Senate, there are two pending bills lowering the minimum age of criminal liability to 12, but senators will still hold debates on the age.
President Rodrigo Duterte himself has been pushing for the age to be lowered to 9 years old. (READ: Duterte talks to kids about 'generations' of criminals) – Rappler.com