MANILA, Philippines – An online petition has been launched, asking Philippine Congress to withdraw its bill lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 years old to 9 years old.
The petition, started by Child’s Right Network and the Philippine Action for Youth Offenders, has more than 14,000 signatures as of late evening Monday, January 21.
Posted on Change.org, the groups’ petition says “lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility is a shortsighted solution that will mostly affect the children of the poor.”
On Monday, the House committee on justice approved the substitute bill that would amend Republic Act 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: House panel OKs bill to lower age of criminal liability to 9 years old)
These measures are in response to the wishes of President Rodrigo Duterte, who has been pushing for the age to be lowered to 9 years old since his campaign in 2016.
At the Senate, there are two pending bills lowering the minimum age of criminal liability, but senators will still hold debates on the age – one seeks to lower it to 12, while another wants it to be more than 12. (READ: Senate to begin hearing bills on lowering age of criminal liability)
The groups stressed that the government should focus on the “strong, full, and effective” implementation of the Juvenile Justice Law of 2006 – the separate justice system for children in conflict with the law.
“We must not ignore scientific evidence that shows that criminalizing children does not solve the problem of children committing crimes; it only encourages re-offending,” they said. (READ: [OPINION] Children’s rights pay the price for political gain)
The groups pointed out 5 reasons the minimum age of criminal responsibility should not be lowered.
Children are not little adults.
It will not result in lower crime rates.
Lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility will not stop syndicates from using children.
The Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 does not need to be amended. It needs to be fully implemented.
Jail is no place for a child.
Citing these as reasons, the petitioners strengthened its call to punish the crime syndicates that take advantage of children instead of criminalizing the juveniles – the ones who need to be “rescued, supported, and rehabilitated.”
Following the approval of the still-unnumbered House bill on January 21, several rights groups slammed the measure, saying that it is “not in the best interest” of children. (READ: #ChildrenNotCriminals: Rights groups slam bill lowering age of criminal liability)
Other lawmakers said that by lowering the criminal liability age, Congress has become a bully. – Rappler.com
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