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Filipino artists’ group opposes lowering age of criminal responsibility

Ryan Macasero - Philstar.com
Filipino artistsâ group opposes lowering age of criminal responsibility
Artists advocacy group Concerned Artists of the Philippines, seen protesting in this 2018 photo, opposes the bill lowering the age of criminal responsibility.
Facebook / Concerned Artists of the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines — The proposal to lower the age of criminal responsibility is “barbaric” and “disrespectful to human dignity,” the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP), a collective of artists, writers, filmmakers and cultural workers, said in a statement on Friday. 

“This proposal is an assault on the rights of children and a reflection of the continuous attacks on human rights on all fronts,” they said in a statement. 

The organization was founded by acclaimed filmmaker Lino Brocka in 1983 for artists to collectively speak out against censorship and authoritarian rule during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. 

“Children are not criminals. We reject the proposed lowering of the age bracket of criminal responsibility,” they added. “The notion is barbaric, disrespectful of human dignity, ignorant of social conditions on the ground, and entirely unsupported by scientific and scholarly evidence.”

House Bill 8858 was approved by the committee on justice earlier this week. It initially lowered the age to criminal liability to 9 years old, before it was later increased to 12. 

READ: House changes proposed age of criminal responsibility to 12 years old 

Under the controversial measure, children as young as 12 years old who commit serious crimes with discernment would be mandatorily confined at Bahay Pag-asa — youth care facilities mandated by law to offer rehabilitation and intervention to children in conflict with the law.

Discernment, as defined by the Rule on Juveniles in Conflict with the Law, is the “capacity of the child at the time of the commission of the offense to understand the differences between right and wrong and the consequences of the wrongful act.”

The Senate’s justice and human rights committee also opened discussions on proposing a similar measure. 

Proponents of the bill argue that the law doesn’t necessarily lock up children in adult jails, but puts them in “Bahay Pag-asa’s” or reformative institutions. 

Children’s rights advocates said that Bahay Pag-asa facilities exist under “subhuman conditions.

READ: Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council: Some Bahay Pag-asa centers ‘worse than prisons’

Cap pointed out that juvenile delinquencies only “mirror the state of dysfunction and more systemic problems in Philippine society.” 

They believe that justice should be “restorative and rights based.” 

Among the most prominent artists opposed to this measure is actress Anne Curtis, who is a celebrity advocate for Unicef (United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund). She said in a tweet that it was "sad to think that they would lower the age of criminal responsibility to 9." 

READ: Celebrities react to bill on lowering age of criminal liability

She added: "At that age they are still very much children. They still have a chance to change their ways if they happen to cause or get into trouble instead of being jail and sentenced as an adult."

Among other artists who lent their voice to speak out against the bill are singer and actress Agot Isidro; actor and poet Juan Miguel Severo; TV show host and actor Teddy Corpuz; musician Ebe Dancel; and actor and comedian Jun Sabayton. 

CAP said that they “laud the efforts of artists and cultural workers who are voicing out their protests against this proposal.”

“Let us continue to protect our children and youth from this assault of the state,” the organization concluded. 

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