Bill to lower age of criminal responsibility will inflict further harm and danger to children - Karapatan

Karapatan, its chapters and member organizations led by the Children’s Rehabilitation Center, vehemently oppose all moves, including that of the House of Representatives, to inflict further harm and danger to Filipino children by passing a bill to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility to nine years old.

The said measure, if enacted into law, will place millions of Filipino children at risk of being criminalized and stigmatized for life. Instead of creating an environment that will provide food, education, health and other services for children, the Duterte government fosters an increasingly hostile context for children in conflict with the law. Instead of creating substantive programs, the government instead subjects children who have yet to discern what’s right and wrong to a lifetime of trauma as this proposed bill places and treats children as young as nine years old at par with adults.

The Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility (MACR) bill also conveniently neglects the context that poverty and the lack of socio-economic opportunities are the main drivers of child offenses. At least 45% of the offenses attributed to children are petty theft, robbery and other offenses against property, while 65% of children offenders come from poor families.

Karapatan agrees with the UNICEF and other children’s rights institutions in reminding the Duterte government of its mandate to provide access and opportunity to children, instead of concocting measures that will scar them for life. The government should not renege on its responsibility to create and foster a conducive environment for children so that they may become meaningful participants in society.

If enacted, this measure will exacerbate the already dangerous situation of Filipino children, in the midst of their being killed and considered collateral damage in the government’s sham drug war and counterinsurgency operations. The policies rolled out by the government already exact a heavy toll on children’s wellbeing, health and education opportunities, especially with the rising prices of basic commodities due to neoliberal policies such as the TRAIN law. Such repressive measures do nothing to solve the situation of children in conflict with the law, and actually add to the systemic injustice that they are already subjected to.

Karapatan calls on rights advocates and the Filipino people to oppose the attempts to enact the MACR bill and other measures that will have severe and irreversible repercussion on the future of Filipino children.

Reference: Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, +639173162831 

Karapatan Public Information Desk, 0918-9790580