Unicef opposes bill seeking to lower age of criminal liability to 12
The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) on Thursday opposed Senator Vicente Sotto III’s proposal to lower the age of criminal liability to 12 years old.
Unicef said it is “deeply concerned” over this latest effort to lower the age of children who can be jailed, as it also called on lawmakers to instead improve the implementation of the existing law on juvenile delinquency.
Sotto earlier filed Senate Bill 2026, which seeks to amend Republic Act. No. 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006. He said he filed the bill amid the number of crimes being committed by minors.
But according to Unicef, Sotto’s basis for filing the bill is a “flawed argument.”
“To brand children as criminals removes the responsibility and accountability from adults who have failed them,” the organization said in a statement.
Unicef explained that children involved in crimes are only victims, mostly of poverty and lack of a caring environment.
It also noted the “shining moment for Congress” in 2006 when the prevailing law raised the age of criminal liability from nine to the current 15 years old.
“This [Sotto’s bill] is a giant leap backward,” Unicef said. “Detaining or institutionalizing children are the least effective and the most expensive measure for preventing reoffending.”
Unicef explained that studies in neurobiology show that adolescents’ brain function reach maturity only at around 16 years old, which affects their reasoning and impulse control.
Meanwhile, Child Rights Network also slammed Sotto’s bill, saying that lowering the age of criminal liability is a “misguided solution.”
“In the true spirit of our Constitution, we urge our legislators to promote the welfare and uphold the rights of the children,” it said in a statement. /ee
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