UNICEF joins call to oppose bill lowering age of criminal responsibility to 9
Posted: 2017-Feb-17 23.00.03 UTC+0800
MANILA — The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Philippine Legislators' Committee on Population and Development joined the Child Rights Network (CRN) in opposing the lowering of the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to nine years old.
In a press conference held at the Sulu Riviera Hotel in Quezon City, UNICEF Country Representative Lotta Sylwander said that instead of amending the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act (Republic Act 9344) and pushing for lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility, what is needed is to strengthen the implementation of the justice system.
In an interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA), Sylwander noted the need for adequate funding and capacity building among implementers, especially at the local government level, to enhance the justice system.
"We need to improve the whole system in order for these children, who commit crime and become criminal delinquents, to get the support that they deserve so they will not suck in criminal behavior for life but rather be restored to a normal life — a young person going to school, having friends, living with a family, and so on," she explained.
She said children don't have the capacity to say no to an adult who tries to coerce them to commit crimes.
Instead of focusing on the statistics that 1.7 percent of crimes are committed by 15-year-olds, authorities should look into the perpetrators of the other 98 percent of crimes, she said.
"These children — they need assistance so they never commit crime again. They don't need to go to prison and be trained by other (hardened) criminals in prison. They need to go home, and live with their fathers and mothers. They need to go to school. They need to get out of criminal behavior. They need to be helped," the UNICEF official said.
Sylwander noted that these children need help because they came from poor families, grew up in a dysfunctional environment, were hanging out with the wrong peers, were suffering from poor parenting and family conflict, and fell into traps they would otherwise not get caught in if they grew up in a protective and caring environment that provides holistic growth and development.
Romeo Dongeto of the Philippine Legislators' Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) meanwhile said that there seems to be a wrong analysis of Children in Conflict with the Law (CICL).
Dongeto said that it is important to see and trace the root cause of the problem that turns children into criminals, making them the "victims".
He cited cases where boys commit rape, thinking that what they did was normal because they have seen those older than them do it.
He said most of the time, these children do not fully comprehend the gravity of what they had done because the very people who should be guiding them to do the right thing are absent in their lives or are not fully capable of giving them the right guidance.
He emphasized the importance of seeing the entire picture before arriving at the flawed analysis or assumption that children are contributing to rising criminality.
"These (children) are actually victims, abandoned by their parents, grew up in streets, and fall into the trap of becoming drug runners," he said.
At present, the amendment to the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Law by lowering the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 9 is being pushed at the House of Representatives. (PNA)