No to lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility in the Philippines
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There are moves at the House of Representatives to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) in the Philippines from the current 15 to as young as 9 years old. Senate President Tito Sotto also filed a bill lowering the MACR to 12 years old.
We appeal to the Philippine Congress to withdraw this proposed law that will treat children as young as 9 or 12 years old as adult criminals.
The Philippines already has a separate justice system for children, through the Juvenile Justice Law of 2006, that must be fully and effectively implemented. Lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) is a shortsighted solution that will mostly affect the children of the poor.
The MACR is the lowest age by which a person can be charged in court and jailed.
We must not ignore scientific evidence that shows that criminalizing children does not solve the problem of children committing crimes; it only encourages re-offending. The change we want to see most is the stronger implementation of the Juvenile Justice Law.
Here are 5 more reasons why the MACR should NOT be lowered:
1. Children are not little adults.
Scientific research shows that “children and adolescents differ significantly from adults in decision-making, propensity to engage in risky behavior, impulse control, identity development, and overall maturity.” (Psychological Association of the Philippines, 2016)
Hence, a child should not be held to the same standards as adults. Too young to vote, get married, and have a driver's license but not too young to be charged for a crime and be held in jails?
2. It will not result in lower crime rates.
According to the Philippine National Police, children commit only 1.72% of total crimes in the Philippines. Most are petty crimes like theft, which is often linked to poverty.
3. Lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility will not stop syndicates from using children.
It will encourage syndicates to use children younger than 9 or 12 years old.
4. The Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 does not need to be amended. It needs to be fully implemented.
The law already provides guidelines on how children who commit crimes should be handled. Contrary to popular belief, children who commit serious offenses are held accountable. But instead of receiving harsh punishments, the child is placed in a youth care facility or Bahay Pag-Asa to undergo intensive intervention programs supervised by a multi-disciplinary team.
5. Jail is no place for a child.
Due to lack of youth care facilities, children will most likely end up in jails where they may be subjected to violence and abuse. Detention should be the last resort, not the first and only option.
Do we criminalize and punish children just because we have failed our duty or responsibility to fully implement the law?
Even the Department of Social Welfare and Development has recently released a statement saying:
"A lower age of criminal responsibility results in more children being detained, substantially higher cost of public expenditure, and an even higher social cost of re-offending and graver offending, which simply demonstrates that such measure is not cost-effective.”
We encourage the Philippine Congress and our duty-bearers in the government to:
1. Punish the crime syndicates who take advantage of children, not the children who need to be rescued, supported, and rehabilitated.
2. Push for the full and effective implementation of the law so that both children who commit crimes and their victims are assisted and supported.
3. Instead of lowering the MACR, support local government units in providing prevention, intervention, and diversion programs for children.
Sign this petition to convince the Philippine Congress that lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility is NOT the solution!
Learn more about the MACR and why it should not be lowered here.
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