“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))