De Lima: Jail criminal syndicates, abusive parents not kids
MANILA, Philippines – Opposition Senator Leila de Lima has pushed for the swift passage of her bill seeking to protect children from syndicates and abusive parents who exploit them for criminal acts.
In reiterating the passage of Senate Bill No. 195 or the Anti-Criminal Exploitation of Children Act, De Lima said she hoped her fellow senators would consider her proposal as a better measure to protect children from criminal exploitation than the bill lowering the age of criminal liability.
“I urge my colleagues to look at the Anti-Criminal Exploitation of Children Act which is one of the first bills I filed meant to ensure that criminal syndicates and abusive parents, not our children, are held accountable under our law,” De Lima said in a statement on Friday, January 25.
The senator, who chairs the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare, and Rural Development, said lowering the age of criminal liability from 15 to 9, as proposed by some lawmakers, “cannot be an effective response to fight rising criminality.”
“Our children are not the criminals here but victims of abuses and exploitation. They don’t belong in jail,” De Lima added.
The senator pushed for her bill a day after the House of Representatives approved on second reading the bill that seeks to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility, currently at 15.
The House amended the proposed new minimum age to 12 from 9, which is aligned with the Senate version. There is strong opposition to the measure among rights groups, child welfare advocates, and opposition lawmakers who said the bill treats children as “scapegoats” for the government’s failing peace and order campaign.
In her first month as senator in 2016, De Lima filed SB 195 which defines the criminal exploitation of children and imposes higher penalties for all crimes where children are used.
“Children are among the marginalized and most vulnerable in society. They must be protected from predators. These include parents and criminals who take advantage of their vulnerability,” De Lima said.
Under the bill, children are deemed as victims when they are used for illegal acts, either as participants or tools to commit crimes.
This bill seeks imprisonment for criminal syndicates and individuals who engage, promote, facilitate or induce a child in illegal activities. It also prescribes a no-arrest policy in all cases involving children.
SB 195 seeks to exempt from criminal liability children up to the age of 15 years, while those 15 years old but below 18 years old are also exempt from criminal liability but can be subject to state intervention.
“Minors should be guided, not jailed. They do not possess the same level of discernment that adults have, making them defenseless to influences that place their lives and future at risk,” De Lima said in the bill’s explanatory note.
“It is our duty to protect and take care of the psychological and physical well-being of our children. Imprisonment of children violates their human right to development," added the senator, a former justice secretary and Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairman.
Under De Lima's bill, the CHR is tasked as the Ombudsman for Children to promote and protect children's rights. – Rappler.com