22 February 2017
Reference: ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro
ACT Teachers Representative France Castro today joined child rights advocates in calling for the scrapping of the proposed bill to lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR). The protest was held in front of the House of Representatives (HOR) after representatives from the Makabayan bloc walked out from the hearing of the Committee on Justice.
The bill seeks to lower the MACR from the current 15 years old to nine years old. Children in conflict with the law (CICL) who are nine to below 18 years old will be subject to criminal proceedings if they are alleged to have acted with discernment, or knew their action was wrong.
“As a teacher, I know the mentality of my students and children at that tender age. They still don’t have sufficient capacity to distinguish right from wrong and are vulnerable to authority, pressure, or deceit from adults,” Castro said. “When they do wrong, it is when they need most to be put in nurturing environments and not be ostracized as criminals.”
The solon agreed that children are indeed used in crimes like drug peddling, which is among the reasons forwarded as by the bill’s proponents for lowering the MACR. “If that is so, then these children are victims and not criminals. What we have to do is to punish those who use them in crimes.”
Castro added that, instead of lowering the MACR, government should fully fund and implement the existing Juvenile Justice Welfare Act (JJWA), which includes the establishment of 24-hour child-caring institutions for local government units called Bahay Pag-asa. She noted that due to lack of facilities and appropriate training and personnel, CICL in the field are treated as adults and diversion programs for CICL are almost non-existent.
“We urge our fellow legislators to listen to the overwhelming opposition aired by child rights advocates and psychologists and concerned agencies to scrap this bill,” Castro pointed. “Congress should also use its oversight powers to ensure that laws for the benefit of children such as the JJWA are implemented thoroughly.”
“Government should also address the current conditions which contribute to children’s involvement in criminal and antisocial acts,” Castro ended. “Some of the adults surrounding CICL resort to ‘kapit sa patalim’ because the state failed to address their basic needs and the state continues to neglect or abandon them.” ###