Workers’ group warns of more illegal child labor cases
A labor group on Tuesday warned that lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 9 years old may pave the way for a rise in the number of child labor cases in the country.
According to the Federation of Free Workers (FFW), the bill approved by the House committee on justice on Monday would only benefit unscrupulous individuals and groups who involved children in illicit activities that are among “the worst forms of child labor.”
“Masterminds would easily escape criminal liability by laying the blame on innocent children, who are incapable of resisting and evading arrest, nor have easy access to legal defense. This will artificially increase the incidence of child labor,” said FFW vice president Julius Cainglet.
Under the measure, children as young as 9 years old would be put under “mandatory confinement” for such crimes as murder, car theft and violating the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
Cainglet said a 9-year-old child could not have access to illegal drugs “unless led into the lion’s den by abusive adults.”
Parents, guardians and criminal syndicates who victimize children are accountable for illegal activities that involve children, he said.
“We should not punish our own children for society’s failure to care for, guide and bring up the child in the way the child should go,” Cainglet said.
He noted that the measure would undermine the country’s efforts to reduce by half by 2025 the number of children involved in child labor. An estimated 2 million children are currently exposed to child labor practices.
The labor leader reminded lawmakers that rather than locking up “misguided” and “abused” children, they should push policies to rehabilitate and help reintegrate them back to society.
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