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
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.
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
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”.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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))
“Childhood should be carefree, playing in the sun; not living a nightmare in the darkness of the soul” — Dave Pelzer, A Child Called “It”s
A chunk of its campaign in advancing child protection and human rights, the Children Center (CLRDC) organized a series of workshops on Child Sexual Abuse Prevention and Safety in its partner Barangay in Caloocan City, at Barangay 176 from February to July 2016.
The said activity commenced in February this year with the members of the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC) as the first batch of the shareholders to avail this significant exercise. The succeeding workshops run twice a month with different batches of participants. This activity was one of the needs identified by the BCPC that necessitates information drive to address the increasing numbers of cases of child sexual abuse occurring in the said barangay.
For the last leg of the seminar/workshop series, CLRDC through the office of Kagawad Ruth Fredejas of Barangay 176, Zone 15, District 1 of Caloocan city, conducted a whole day activity on Child Sexual Abuse Safety and Prevention Measures last 2 July 2016 at the Barangay Hall of Barangay 176.
The last streak of the seminar/workshop for this cycle was attended by mothers, guardians and children as young as 5 years old from Bagong Silang Phases 1,5, and 9, and the whole day event was filled with engaging discussions, activities, and sharing from the participants and the resource speakers.
Subjects ranging from the basic concepts of Anti-Child Abuse law, common misconceptions about sexual abuse, tell-tale signs of child sexual abuse to different ways to protect the children from child abuse and sexual abuse were discussed. The highlight of the topic was the clue on “how perpetrators groom their potential victims.”
To make the workshop more interactive, the CLRDC team prepared activities that suits the participants and that made the learning experience all-inclusive by allowing children’s voices to be heard .
Maribel, one of the many mothers who came to the event said that her learning from the workshop is very helpful especially since her daughter is still young. She added that the safety tips and measures are useful to protect her daughter as well as the young children in her community from abusers. Princess, a 9-year old participant shared that she enjoyed the activities during the event and that she learned about protecting herself from any possible perpetrator.
At the end of the workshop, engaging discussions followed among the participants as well as consultations with the representatives of the barangay with respect to the proper reporting of possible cases of child abuse and sexual abuse in the community. This interest shown by the participants encourages CLRDC to sustain this kind of awarenessraising especially in the community where many marginalized children have less access to justice.
(By: Pamela Camacho, CLRDC Intern from University of the East College of Law)