Akbayan Youth condemns the move of some lawmakers to lower the minimum age of criminal liability to 12, asserting that HB 6052 is a misnomer.
HB 6052 or An act strengthening the Juvenile Justice System in the Philippines, amending for the purpose Republic Act No. 9344, otherwise known as the “Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006” seeks to lower the age when a Filipino can be tried and jailed for criminal charges from 15 to 12 years old.
Akbayan Youth National Spokesperson JC Tejano said that “the proposed bill (HB 6052) will not strengthen the juvenile justice system of the country, but will only serve to backtrack our progress in human rights.” Tejano added that lowering the minimum age of criminal liability is an injustice to the youth.
“Children who break the law at the age of 12 do not do so with proper discernment and understanding of the act and the consequences thereof,” Tejano said. “On the contrary, they do so because of circumstances and situations they are in. Poverty and lack of parental guidance are only few of the unfair circumstances that can lead to criminality,” Tejano further said.
Tejano pointed out that the implementation of the landmark Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 has put the Philippines at the forefront in Asia in upholding international child rights standards. However, it has been a challenge for the government. Children in conflict with the law (CICL) are continually subjected to pre-trial detentions and poor conditions in overcrowded detention facilities without proper medical care, legal safeguards and proper counseling support.
“The challenge plaguing the justice system is not an issue of age. But it is an issue of the government’s failure to install and operate humane and rehabilitative mechanisms that would reform CICLs and prepare them to re-enter society,” Tejano asserts. “Consequently, lowering the age of criminal liability will not lessen the number of children who commit crimes due to poverty. The bill will only increase the number of CICLs facing the same dismal conditions and undignified conditions presently persisting,” Tejano said.
“We in Akbayan Youth posits that cases dealing with CICL must be handled in such a way that the age of the offender and the context they have been brought up should be taken into account. Treatment of cases involving children must be made in a way that promotes their sense of dignity and worth,” Tejano said. “Hence, branding CICL, especially those as young as 12 years old, as criminals is not only pejorative and disparaging. It further restricts the opportunities available for the juvenile offenders and results to their exclusion from society,” Tejano added.
Furthermore, Tejano asserts that CICL should be given better attention through functional rehabilitative centers in the spirit of restorative justice.
“The government must subsequently increase the resources available for reforming the juvenile justice system,” Tejano said. “They must provide better safeguards to ensure that the rights of the child are upheld and provide opportunities and support mechanisms to promote the development and well-being of each child,” Tejano concluded.###