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Statement of the Council for the Welfare of Children Secretariat on the finalization of the bill lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility

 

The Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) Secretariat reiterates its firm opposition on the lowering of the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) from 15 years of age down to 9.


According to the Committee on the Rights of the Child General Comment No. 10 of 2007 (Child Rights’ in Juvenile Justice), “State parties are encouraged to increase their minimum age to at least 14 years, while those with 15 or 16 years of age are commendable. Further, the Committee recommends that State Parties should under no circumstances reduce the minimum age of criminal responsibility, if its current penal law sets the minimum age of criminal responsibility at an age higher than 14 years.”


Lowering of MACR is a shortsighted solution which places blame on children rather than recognizing and addressing the underlying factors which drive children to engage in criminal activities, and working towards eradicating adult-initiated organized crimes.


Based on the position paper of the Psychological Association of the Philippines (PAP) in 2017, typical profiles of CICL are those who came from dysfunctional families and are victims of the lack of neglect/ parental care.


Socio-economic factors such as inequality, unemployment or the lack of economic and educational opportunity in households lead to poverty, which then leads to crime and delinquency. Essentially, children who are deprived of their rights are highly vulnerable to exploitation.


PAP further expounded that a child’s cognitive ability to control emotional impulse, make reasoned-decisions, regulate emotions, and evaluate risks and rewards are still under development during the early to middle adolescent stage. This makes them less-likely to consider the long-term consequences of their actions, and be vulnerable to risk and influence of adults. Labeling children in conflict with the law (CICL) as criminals may identify themselves as such and behave in ways that reflect the identity of a criminal.


Children are not little adults. Particularly, CICL are victims and not criminals. As victims of circumstances, they should be supported and accorded with appropriate intervention and rehabilitation not only by the government but also with the family and the community as well. Most importantly, they have the right to grow up in a caring and protective environment and be given a chance to redeem themselves.


The State, as the primary duty bearer of children’s rights, has the responsibility and accountability to care for and protect them against, improper influences, hazards, and other conditions or circumstances prejudicial to his/her development. Hence, legislative measures should target the penalization of crime syndicates rather than focus on children who are victims of exploitation.


The CWC Secretariat appeals for a stronger implementation of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act (JJWA) as amended by Republic Act No. 10630 through an effective juvenile justice system - a system that will ensure normal growth and development of CICL and children at risk (CAR) through the enforcement of programs and services for prevention, diversion, rehabilitation, and re-integration and aftercare.


Criminalize syndicates, not children. Implement the JJWA, not amend.

#ChildrenNotCriminals #BataProtektahan #NoToLoweringOfMACR


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