Plan to lower minimum age of crime responsibility opposed
Rainier Allan Ronda (The Philippine Star) - July 21, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Children’s rights advocates are opposing the plan of lawmakers to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) from 15 to nine years.

The Philippine Action for Youth Offenders (PAYO) and Child Rights Network (CRN) said lowering the MACR “undermines the best interest of the child” and would not solve the problem of children committing crimes.

“Lowering the age of criminal responsibility will result in negative consequences for children and the public. It will increase the number of children detained for long periods of time, making them more likely to become hardened offenders,” their position paper said.

“Detention may also increase the likelihood that young people will recidivate, compromising public safety. Incarcerating children goes against established principles of proportionality and fair treatment and contradicts the best interest of the child and the rights of children to maximum survival and development,” it added.

PAYO and CRN issued their position paper after incoming House speaker Pantaleon Alvarez raised the proposal to lower the MACR.

The five-page position paper was also signed by the Ateneo Human Rights Center and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care.

Other signatories are the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Child Fund Philippines, Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Sexual Abuse, Child Hope Asia Philippines, Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center, Couples for Christ, Fundacio Educacion y Copperation, Plan International Philippines, Save the Children and World Vision Philippines.

The groups said the MACR was debated in the Senate and the House of Representatives for the amendment of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 (JJWA).

“Our Congress took 13 years to craft the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006. In 2013, it was amended to improve provisions on the administration of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council (JJWC), handling repeat offenders and children at risk of offending, and providing intervention and rehabilitative services for children in conflict with the law,” the groups said in their paper.

“It is imprudent to cast aside all the years of diligent study and in-depth discussions to formulate a Restorative Juvenile Justice system in the Philippines without careful research and in consideration of the current facts and laws promoting and protecting the rights of children.             

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