In the name of the father and of the son
SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. (The Philippine Star) - February 16, 2019 - 12:00am

Its been said that “when parents commit a crime, its the kids who do the time.” Children bear a heavy consequence every time a parent runs afoul of the law. In addition to living with the reality of what’s been done, children endure the loss of a primary source of nurture in their lives. There is also the burden of society’s wrath. The sins of the father visited unquestionably upon the son.

When it’s the child who commits the crime, what wages do parents pay for the sins of their children? This is the question our lawmakers have had to grapple with in the discussion on the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR). Though the matter has been shelved for the meantime, it remains an integral part of the President’s legislative agenda and is likely to rear its head again in the next session of Congress.

Duties. What indeed do parents owe society, at least until the child’s adulthood, for having dared to bring them into this world? Congress is attempting to unravel this philosophical conondrum in the face of mounting calls to get tough on kids’ crime. Should the law hold parents responsible for their children’s criminal behavior?

This has become a universal lament in the face of countless instances of violence at the hands of minors. In the US, where gun control laws are an oxymoron, school grounds like Columbine, Virginia Tech, where the most infamous massacres occurred, live in infamy. At home, we survived the indiscriminate discharge of firearms this month by a group that included two minors. There is the celebrated bullying case at the Ateneo. And then the constant spewing by the President and legislator advocates of data to confirm syndicates’ use of minors as accomplices for crime.

At present, our laws hold parents to account for their children’s offenses when it is the parent who violates the “duty to act” imposed by filial circumstance. When the minor, for example, has anger control issues or if a parent were a licensed gun owner who allows his child access to the dangerous weapon. In these instances, there would clearly be a duty on the part of the parent. And if their failure to act results to injury to the public, they are answerable. They are also made directly liable under the Child and Youth Welfare Code for the acts of their “youthful offenders.” But the accountability here is civil. The recompense is in the form of restitution and damages. 

Should parents be criminally liable? The Bible, in Deutoronomy, provides: “Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin.” But our Congressmen aren’t persuaded. The draft MACR statute is ground breaking in that it would hold parents criminally liable. Spooking parents into more active and positive participation in their children’s lives continues as an urgent hope of our policy makers. The trouble really lies in the details.

Of course, when the Parent himself participates or encourages, as when he is ringleader to his child’s follower or when she pimps the prostituting child, then the charge is direct. But what if simply unaware or, even if engaged, otherwise unable to control the child’s actions? These are just a few of the points to ponder if and when Congress resumes debates on the MACR bills.

Men for others. You can say that they’ve been wired for it since their khaki days. Xavier school alumni Willie Ong (’81), JV Ejercito (’87) and Sonny Angara (’89) all entered the sphere of government service. Dr. Willie in public health, Senators JV and Sonny in elective office. They walked the Xavier talk: “men fully alive endowed with a passion for justice and the skills for development”.

Thursday before last, in partnership with the ANC News Channel, the Alumni Association of Xavier staged a Senatorial forum for these favorite sons. We are proud of all three. But we are specially proud of Willie, the only doctor among all the candidates for the Senate. The image he projects, specially in social media where he is a phenomenon, of the selfless, god centered, happy healer is an authentic representation of his character. From our days at Xavier and in the many years thereafter that we have crossed paths, Willie has been an exemplar of service to his fellow Filipinos.

The last medical doctors in the House were Dr. Luisa “Loi” Ejercito Estrada, Senator from 2001-2007 and Senator Juan Flavier who served from 1995-2007. With the myriad health care issues we’ve been confronting these past years: universal health care, reproductive health, mental wellness, the Dengvaxia controversy and its domino effect on vaccination attitudes, the HIV-AIDS incidence, among others, it would be a great comfort if we had an altruistic physician in the mold of Senators Loi and Johnny, someone like Dr. Willie taking the lead in the national discourse.

Requiem for a beautiful soul. She gave it her all and did it her way. Not many shared the good fortune of having known a true maverick like Armida Siguion-Reyna. To those who did, it was a grand privilege. Observing her up close was an incomparable learning experience. Honor, authenticity, honesty, righteousness – these are but a few of the values one would imbibe just by being near her – as a friend, a fan, a co-worker. Famously, she was also an outstanding mother, grandmother, daughter, sister and wife to her beloved family. I admired her for being genuine, principled and uncompromising. I envied how she was never afraid to do or say what she wanted to. She left an impact that went far beyond her beloved Arts and Entertainment industry and well into the realm of great contributions to Philippine history and culture. Manong Johnny need not worry. It won’t be easy to forget Tita Midz.

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