Why Lowering The Age of Criminal Liability Is Nothing But Anti-Poor

On January 21, the House committee on justice has approved the bill lowering the minimum age of criminal liability from 15 years old to 9 years old.

However, no child is capable of subjecting him/herself to any illegal doings with his/her own volition. The cause, influence, or force leading to their action and behavior should be the government’s sole concern. Children are the victims themselves.

Anyone in the age of 9 to 15 years old is supposed to be at school or playing outside and they should have a nurturing shelter to come home to. But when you live in a poverty-riddled country like the Philippines, that’s not always the case.

Instead of daily night sessions of getting their homework done for the next day of school and engaging in a peaceful family dinner after, some were raised in an abusive and inharmonious environment. These children rattle up every busy street; hunting for very little money to survive hunger. Whether influenced by syndicates or scarcity, none of them are old enough to make mature decisions for themselves. This is a risk innocent girls and boys have to muster unbeknownst to the danger that is looming in their path.

Accordingly, the bill primarily seeks to “protect” children from being used by syndicates to commit crimes, said House justice panel chairperson and Oriental Mindoro 1st District Representative Salvador Leachon, one of the 25 lawmakers who registered their vote for the bill. In relation to his notion, when did criminalization become synonymous to protection? And why does it seem like the aforementioned ‘syndicates’ are perpetually being ignored?

Lowering the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility (MACR) is cruelty itself, and it only pours gasoline to the blazing fire of injustice.

The House bill orders that children 9 to 14 years old who will commit serious crimes – such as murder, parricide, infanticide, serious illegal detention, carnapping, and violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 – be under control of  “mandatory confinement” for rehabilitation at Bahay Pag-Asa. On the contrary, it is the adult that initiates such violations which put children in conflict with the law.

“Studies show how children in conflict with the law, without undergoing proper rehabilitation and reintegration, face a troubled future,” Child Rights Network (CRN), an alliance of organizations and agencies pushing for children’s rights legislation says.

Targeting children to the extent of criminalizing them only turns us away from the real issue. The youth is not the problem to the country’s state of crime, and putting them in jail is beyond any doubt, not the solution.

It is their welfare that should be prioritized. Being able to give them hope that there is a bright future in spite of being robbed off of privileges they rightfully should have gotten when they were born. It is help and guidance that is needed. It is giving them access to formal education. It’s providing them with all the care and support so they could become good leaders this unjust system needs.