Various child rights groups have banded together to fight a proposed legislative move to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility of children in conflict with the law to nine from 15 at present.
In a news conference at the Kamuning Bakery in Quezon City on Wednesday, different stakeholders contended that is “indeed the entrenched poverty in the country that [leads]to children getting into conflict with the law.”
“We believe that the goverment should not regard juvenile offenders as criminals, they are victims of poverty and state neglect. These poor children have been condemned miserably [to]a condition where they need to commit crimes in order to survive,” according to Kahrlo Manano, spokesman for Salinlahi, an alliance for children’s concerns.
Referring to data from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) data that say most children in conflict with the law belong to low-earning families of six members on the average, have stopped schooling and were charged with property-related crimes, Manano said the House of Representatives has even moved for the lowering the age of criminal responsibility of children.
“House Speaker [Pantaleon] Alvarez and members of the House Committee on Justice should give weight to the clamor of the public opposing such proposal. Jailing children, as young as nine years old, will not address the problem of child offenders. Instead the goverment should prioritize crafting responsive programs and policies that will address poverty that should include job generation for poor families, genuine land reform for farmers and access to free basic social services such as health and education,” he added.
The UNCHAIN Children (Unity of Child Rights Advocates Against Inhumane Treatment and Neglect of Children), a network composed of mutli-stakeholders who are against the proposed legislation, was launched during the news conference.
Manano said the objective of the UNCHAIN Children is to unify the call of different stakeholders in opposing the move to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) and strengthen their initiatives in pushing the government to address the problem of child offenders.
“We believe that the goverment is primarily responsible for ensuring the welfare of our children, especially those in margins of our society,” he added.
Manano said they will continue holding awareness-raising efforts at the ground level and holding events opposing the proposed legislation including protest actions such as the one they held outside the Batasan Complex, home to lawmakers, before the news conference. JING VILLAMENTE