I was horrified to see my 4-year-old child being strangled by a boy who was around 9 or 10, who I'll call Child X. He was using a rope that he twisted around my son's neck.
Despite me shouting "No!" this boy continued his throttling. I reached my son in time to unfasten the tightened rope before he choked.
I sternly warned Child X not to do it again. My child could've died!
After a few weeks, Child X was conversing with my husband regarding this incident that he admittedly remembered well. To my horror, he downplayed it to the point that he actually denied that it happened! It's bad enough that he did it. But to deny it means he either wanted to "get out of it" or he thought what happened was okay despite my warning.
Children develop moral views as early as 5 years old, according to Jean Piaget's theory of moral development. By the time children reach 9 to 10 years old, their morality is near that of an adult, given the right environment with parents guiding them appropriately.
This becomes deranged when children are left to impatient and indolent caregivers or worse, when they have long screen time (e.g. violent television and video games). Suicide, depression, and anxiety are on the rise in teens because there is lack of attention and discipline from their own parents. So are crimes committed at a younger age.
Those people who rallied against the lowering of minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR), were they hands-on parents? Or parents only by birth but whose children were left to the care of negligent caregivers or worse, gadgets?
We should ask the ones who actually looked after their child from infancy to adolescence, with no help from gadgets; parents whose children have been bullied by children 14 years old and below. They are the ones who can give you realistic answers.
I believe the most important teachers of values are the primary caregivers. And if these are maids who love their cellphones more than these kids or if their primary caregivers are unscreened television or video games whose heroes and heroines are killers of characters perceived as villains, then what can we surmise from that?
Once these children become adolescents, it will be harder to discipline them. If the parents weren't able to discipline them properly, what makes you think they can do no harm to other people?
The Philippines is not the only country where there are efforts to lower the MACR. When I learned of the abduction, torture, and murder of two-year-old James Bulger in 1993 by two 10-year-old boys, I realized the rationale of some countries imposing lower MACR.
In Australia, it is 10 years old. In the United States of America, there are states with no minimum age, although some have set their MACR for federal crimes at around 11 years old. Singapore even has a lower MACR at 7 years old. Those who say lowering of age was "not thought of" must do their own research first before blabbering. Are these countries stupid for setting lower MACR for years?
Some of these countries have petitions to raise MACR due to higher number of children sent to correctionals, hindering their freedom. But have you asked why there is a rise in this number?
Maybe MACR is not the problem. That's only the after effect of lack of discipline due to inadequate proper parenting. Many want to be involved in making national laws, but forget their primary and basic role is to be a parent and to attend to their young. Sadly, many don't even mind forgetting this responsibility. It's easier and deemed more glamorous to rally against a law for a short span of time than raise a difficult child for 18 to 20 years.
Disciplining children can be messy, harrowing, time-consuming and grueling. But that's what our society truly needs. Rather than trying to be lawmakers yourselves, focus instead on upholding family morals and disciplining your children. Maybe if we have raised conscientious children with morally upright values, even if the MACR is reduced below 12 years old, we won't have anything to fear.
This law is needed because some values of today are horrific. If the parents cannot instill the discipline our society needs, our children and other people can suffer that burden when they grow up. (READ: Lowering age of criminal liability contradicts laws protecting children)
Let me end by a favorite quote by Jim Bishop: "Raising a child is very much like building a skyscraper. If the first few stories are out of line, no one will notice. But when the building is 18 to 20 stories high, everyone will see that it tilts."
These days, you don't need to wait 18 years to see the defect. Just at 9 to 10 years old, you can see the error in their development. Parents, instead of clamoring against the proposed bill, it's high time you focus your attention more on your children, who are very much hungry for your attention and love. – Rappler.com
*Veronica Conary is the pseudonym of the author who requested that her identity not be revealed owing to the sensitive nature of the topic. She worked as a school physician for years, but the best title she wears with pride is being a mother who breastfeeds her young until now.