Panay Island groups slam bills lowering age of criminal liability
ILOILO CITY—Human rights, militant and church groups on Panay Island have deplored bills lowering the age of criminal liability to nine years old.
“Children should be in school or with their family, not in jail,” said Fr. Marco Sulayao, chair of the Promotion of Church People’s Response in Panay.
Sulayao said lowering the age of criminal liability would not address the involvement of children in crimes.
“Many of the children are forced to or dragged into crimes mainly due to socio-economic difficulties,” Sulayao said.
He said children are at the center of various churches in the country.
“We strive to teach them good moral values and to be closer to God. We are saddened that lawmakers do not focus on the roots of the problem on why some children are involved in crime,” he said.
Sulayao said child offenders need guidance and would not be involved in crime if their families could afford to send them to school, provide for their basic economic and other needs.
The House Committee on Justice on Monday approved a bill lowering the age of criminal liability from the current 15 years old to 9.
A similar bill pending in the Senate sets 12 years old as the age of criminal liability.
Human rights groups raised the alarm that if the bills are passed, many children would become victims in the bloody government campaign against illegal drugs.
“Lowering the age of criminal liability from 15 to 9 or 12 is a short-sighted approach in solving criminality involving children and blame is put primarily on children without due consideration of the circumstances behind the involvement of children in crimes,” said Reylan Vergara, national vice chairperson of the human rights group Karapatan.
“This could only mean that children from nine years old can now be subjected to (anti-illegal drugs operations) just as what many youth victims have suffered,” he said.
“Instead of setting up measures violative of the rights of minors, the government should give more emphasis to, and remedy its own failures in providing for the environment where children grow into wholesome individuals and where they find no reason to commit crimes,” Vergara said./lzb
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