This file photo shows children sleeping outside a closed restaurant in Binondo, Manila.
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman, File
Lowering age of criminal responsibility puts poor children at 'utmost risk' — NAPC
( - January 29, 2019 - 3:07pm

MANILA, Philippines — The proposal to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility in the country would put impoverished children at “utmost risk,” an official of the National Anti-Poverty Commission said.

The House of Representatives, by a vote of 146-34-0, passed on third and final reading House Bill 8858, which seeks to bring down the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 years old to 12 years old.

The criminal responsibility threshold was earlier pegged at nine years old but was later changed to 12 years old. Proponents of the bill insisted that the aim of the proposed measure is to rehabilitate and reform children in conflict with the law.

But Ruperto Aleroza, vice chairperson of the National Anti-Poverty Commission’s Office of Basic Sectors, stressed that “children living in poverty are at utmost risk with this piece of legislation lobbied in Congress.”

“While we recognize that children committing crimes is a reality, criminalizing children will deprive them of dignity and deny them a better chance at life,” Aleroza said in a statement Tuesday.

He added children in conflict with the law—whether nine or 12 years old—should not be treated as criminals but instead be viewed as “victims of the vicious cycle of poverty and culture of violence and are in need of guidance, support and care from adults.”

Aleroza insisted that the full implementation of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act should be strengthened instead.

A survey of Social Weather Stations in partnership with the Commission on Human Rights found that said that majority of Filipinos who support jailing children in conflict with the law said the minimum age of criminal responsibility should be pegged at 15 years old.  — Gaea Katreena Cabico

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