Should children be turned into criminals?
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Valeriano Avila (The Freeman) - February 11, 2019 - 12:00am

For our special interview on the topic of whether or not we should make criminals out of our children, we talk about Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, where the main issue is whether to bring down the age of children who could be in conflict with the law from 15 to as low as 12 or nine years old.

With me to discuss this very important law, which could break the future of a child, is Atty. Joan Dymphna Saniel, executive director of the Children’s Legal Bureau, Inc. who has been working for this non-government organization for so many years and, yes, I do share with the thoughts of so many people that if a child goes into a life of crime, it is not the child’s fault but his parents or guardians. However, we must submit that more often than not, criminal elements have used children in their nefarious activities.

Decades ago, there was a robbery in our home and the blinds that were removed from our window bore the footprints of a 10-year-old. The robbers couldn’t have gained entry into our house if they didn’t use a child. Thankfully, I was armed and fired my gun and the robbers ran away. So tonight watch Atty. Saniel talk about whether or not we should make criminals out of our children on SkyCable’s channel 53 at 8 p.m. with replays on Wednesday and Saturday same time and channel. We also have replays on MyTV’s channel 30 at 9 p.m. Monday and at 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday.

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While we are still on this issue, I just read a report that said that the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) urged the Philippine government to fully implement the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 as it opposed lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 12. UNICEF Philippines representative Lotta Sylwander opposed the government’s move saying: “If the law is amended, we will see young kids going to prison and trained basically as criminals. They will leave prison as hardened criminals instead of being restored back to their normal childhood.”

It seems that last week, the House of Representatives has approved on final reading the bill lowering the age of criminality liability from 15 to 12. The counterpart measure in the Senate is now pending. But the Senate apparently is not in favor of lowering the criminal liability age. Sylwander said our lawmakers may have been given incorrect information as she noted that the crime rate involving minors has gone down worldwide.

Incidentally, the Vatican declared 2019 as the Year of the Youth, and for a nation that is 85% Catholic, we must not dishonor the rights of a child by reducing the age for children that could be imprisoned for committing a crime. What the Children’s Legal Bureau, Inc. wants to see happen is for the government to implement the law called the Juvenile Justice and Welfare System. For instance, in Cebu City we have no facility to house children in conflict with the law, so rather than create a scenario to bring down the age from 15 to 12, we should be implementing the Bahay Program so that 15-year-olds cannot be housed with hardened criminals. So let’s hope that the Senate doesn’t approve this bill.

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Traffic was so bad along Gorordo Avenue last Saturday afternoon because of a simple accident between a motorcycle and a jeepney. Don’t get me wrong, an enforcer of the Cebu City Transportation Office was there near the Shell Station beside Escario Street, but since they changed the system where the Cebu Traffic Police enforcers handle accidents, it just takes too much time for the police to show up and solve the problem.

We know that Cebu City loses millions a day because of traffic and here we have a scenario where a motorcycle accident with a jeepney snarls traffic all the way to the Lahug Elementary School. With the May elections coming very soon, I would like to know what everyone who is running for mayor, vice-mayor, congressman, or councilor plans to do to solve this very ridiculous situation?

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