A JAIL IS NOT A CHILD’S HOME, LOWERING THE MINIMUM AGE OF CRIMINAL RESPONSIBILITY NEGATES CHILDREN’S FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS

The Children’s Legal Advocacy Network (CLAN) calls on the House of Representatives to reconsider its decision to lower the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility (MACR) to twelve (12) years.

Lowering the MACR would mean a drastic interference with children’s fundamental rights. Detention of children harms their social, emotional and physical development as well as it violates their right to freedom of movement, to access education and the right to grow up in a healthy and supportive environment. By ratifying the UN children’s right convention, the Philippines dedicated themselves to include the key principles of the convention into their law. The best interest of the child, non-discrimination, child participation, survival and development should be non-derogable but will be violated if the bill of lowering the MACR will be passed.­

The proponents of the MACR bill kept on repeating their arguments that children are being used by syndicates to perpetrate a crime. The violations of laws are mainly connected to lax in the social system. If the syndicates, parents or other adults abuse minors for their criminal actions because of the deprived economic circumstances in their lives, this can be prevented through improvement in the social welfare system. And if according to them children are used by syndicates, therefore children are the victims and the laws should punish the syndicates, not the children. Reducing the MACR only lowers the age of the abused children in reality. This would be completely contradictory to the principle of child’s best interest.

Furthermore, in making international comparisons on the MACR, the different social and economic conditions must be considered. We cannot just pick out one law of a whole system and try to impose it on the Philippines, who have a complete different political and social background. If we take Western Europe as an example for criminal liability at the age of 13, it is to be noted that their judicial treatment is completely different and the standard of accommodating youth offenders are higher. For example: In Austria the best interest of the child means to get support within and for the whole family instead of punishing with detainment.

Rehabilitative approaches are the future to prevent a further increase of criminality rates. To make them effective, a greater effort needs to be made in view of the implementation of the current Juvenile Justice Law. As children are the future of our country, laws must protect them instead of putting them in the pillory.

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Leading Schools in the Philippines Launched Information Campaign Against Criminalizing the Nine-Year Old Children

The growing public concern on the legislative proposal currently pending at the House of Representatives that seeks to criminalize children above nine (9) years old, sends a strong message that this measure is not the most logical solution to the alleged increased of children involved in criminality as claimed by the proponents of the bill that seeks to lower the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility (MACR) from 15 to 9 years old. Continue reading

CLRDC Defends Children’s Rights in Congress


The Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center (CLRDC) remains steadfast in its position against the lowering of the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility (MACR) as it defended the human rights of children deprived of liberty as well as the children at risks during a Committee Hearing by the Sub-Committee on Correctional Reforms, Committee of Justice at the House of Representatives on November 16, 2016.

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CLRDC Executive Director Rowena Legaspi was invited to be one of the Resource Persons to present its position before the said Committee on why the MACR should not be lowered. Currently, there are six bills pending at the House of Representatives which all seek to lower the MACR, they are HB 02, 505, 935, 1609, 2009 and 3873. These bills argue, among others:

–          That there is a dramatic increase in the number of children being involved in criminal syndicates, and the latter continue to use those exempt from criminal liability to perpetuate their crime;
–          That in other countries like Europe, USA, the MACR is more lower;
–          That the authors want to teach the children to be responsible in their actions;
–          That if the above 15 and below 18 acted with discernment, they will be tried as adults
(HB 935)

In its position paper presented before the said Committee, CLRDC maintains that lowering the MACR is not the ultimate solution to address the aforesaid bills’ concerns. CLRDC said that “the violations of laws of some minors if indeed they are used by syndicates, are mainly connected to laxity in the social system. If the syndicates, parents or other Adults abuse minors to perpetuate their criminal actions, this can be prevented through improvement in the social welfare system, and the proper implementation of law against child abuse.” CLRDC further states in its position paper that “reducing the MACR in law would be completely contradictory to the main purpose of the child’s best interest. If the goal of the bills is to protect our children, then the call must be to punish severely those who use and take advantage of these minors and break their innocence. The failure of the system to go after the syndicates that use minors reflects weakness of law enforcement in implementing the law”.

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CLRDC underscores that “Children in conflict with the law were many times victims of different circumstances before they landed in detentions, and at the detention centers they continue to be victims as they suffer continued deprivation of access to health, education and justice.” “If we put the nine years old above into detention center by passing these bills, then we are perpetuating the sufferings that these children already endured, the State is not helping, it is condemning the child to a life she or he never deserved by the faults of the adults around him or her. If we incarcerate them as early as 9 years old, who are the most vulnerable and defenseless, the State is more than guilty of stealing these children’s future.”

CLRDC recommended to the Committee the full execution of the juvenile justice law instead of lowering the MACR which violates the many constitutionally protected rights of children. CLRDC was joined by Salinlahi, PAYO and Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation (HLAF) in articulating to the Committee its opposition to the MACR bills.

The committee hearing on the MACR will be continued on November 21, 2016. A very reliable source said that the Committee targets the passage of the MACR bills this coming December, along with the death penalty bill. If the death penalty and the lowering of the MACR bills are passed into law, children above 9 years who committed heinous crime punishable by death, are not spared from this harsh punishment.

 

Similar articles:

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/844810/dswd-chr-oppose-lowering-age-of-criminal-liability

http://www.rappler.com/nation/152587-dswd-chief-lower-age-criminal-responsibility-anti-poor

International Day of the Girl Child through Poetry Reading and Song Writing

The Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center (CLRDC) celebrates the International Day of the Girl Child on October 11, 2016 through literary rendition of poetry reading and song writing performed by students from Sto. Nino Elementary School as well as St. John Academy, both located in Caloocan City.

 

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The International Day of the Girl Child is an international observance day every October 11 declared by the United Nations by virtue of a Resolution it issued on October 11, 2012.


The observation supports more opportunity for girls, and increases awareness of inequality faced by girls worldwide based upon their gender. This inequality includes areas such as access to education, nutrition, legal rights, medical care, and protection from discrimination, violence and unfree child marriage.

HOUSE BILL 002 NEGATES THE CHILD’S BEST INTEREST PRINCIPLE

“Safety and security don’t just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear.”   — Nelson Mandela, Former President of South Africa

On June 30, 2016, House Bill No. 002 which seeks to lower the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility (MACR) from 15 years old to 9, was hastily filed in Congress. The said bill is currently pending at the Committee on Justice at the House of Representatives (HOR). Its primary reason according to the author of the said bill was, “children exempt from criminal liability are being used by criminal syndicates hence, lowering the MACR is the solution.”

In July this year, Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center (CLRDC), along with Children’s Legal Advocacy Network (CLAN), a coalition of 15 CSOs that promotes children’s rights, joined other broad coalition of international children’s organizations in the Philippines, together with local children’s organizations nationwide to voice out a strong opposition against lowering the MACR. Different information materials have been released in retort to the vehement antithesis on the said bill.

A streak of legislative lobbying captured CLRDC’s work most of the time for the months of July until September this year when the Committee on Justice announced that House Bill No. 002 was one of the priority bills.

 

Meeting with the Committee on Revision of Laws @ the House of Representatives, Aug. 9, 2016.

Meeting with the Committee on Revision of Laws @ the House of Representatives, Aug. 9, 2016.

Apart from the dialogue meeting with the Committee on the Revision of Laws at the House of Representatives, on August 10, 2016, CLRDC and CLAN joined the Philippine Action on Youth Offender (PAYO) in a meeting with the Committee on Justice where the said bill was lodged. Succeeding lobbying activities were also conducted at the Senate of the Philippines where said groups had meetings with Senators Pangilinan, Hontiveros, Aquino, and Zubiri. 

In these meetings, CLRDC and CLAN have maintained its position that House Bill No. 002 is a deterrent to the child’s best interest as the said bill seeks to promote punitive justice by putting the child above 9 years old to jail who committed a crime with discernment. This bill swiftly denies children’s rights guaranteed under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) that the Philippines has ratified, and thus, vowed to comply with, through enactment of laws that will advance the child’s right to survival, development, participation and protection.

CLRDC participated the Round Table Discussion at the House of Representatives with the office of Congresswoman Brosas, August 30, 2016.

CLRDC participated the Round Table Discussion at the House of Representatives with the office of Congresswoman Brosas, August 30, 2016.

Meeting with the Committee on Human Rights headed by Congresswoman Cheryl Deloso-Montalla, Aug. 31, 2016.

Meeting with the Committee on Human Rights headed by Congresswoman Cheryl Deloso-Montalla, Aug. 31, 2016.

Article 3 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child provides that “in all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.”

House Bill No. 002 is thus, a smack apoplexy to child’s best interest principle as the said bill not only punishes those above 9 years old, it deprives the child’s rehabilitation and reintegration, and abdicates the child a good life and future that the child deserves.

 

(By: Rowena Legaspi, CLRDC / Chairperson-Convener of Children’s Legal Advocacy Network (CLAN))