Pediatricians oppose bill on age of crime responsibility
The country’s leading association of pediatricians has joined human rights and child welfare groups in opposing the bill that would lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 years old.
Dr. Salvacion Gatchalian, president of the 6,500-member Philippine Pediatric Society Inc. (PPS), on Wednesday said the group was sticking to its official statement in 2016 which strongly objected to lowering the age to 9.
In a statement, PPS and Filipino child experts from Child Protection Unit, Philippine Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics and Philippine Society of Adolescent Medicine upheld the “scientific and medical” basis for maintaining 15 years old.
PPS and the others said the government should instead fully implement the current juvenile justice law.
“We were never consulted on this matter considering that we already gave our position,” the statement said.
The original bill to lower the minimum age to 9 years old was approved by the justice committee of the House of Representatives on Monday. The proposed law was passed on second reading by the House on Wednesday, but raised the age to 12.
Raising the age to 12 would make “no difference,” said Dr. Bernadette Madrid, a member of the Council for Community and Child Advocacy, and executive director of Child Protection Network Foundation Inc.
“We maintain our previous stand (to keep it at 15),” she said.
In a statement after the House vote, the PPS remained steadfast in opposing the lowering of the age of criminal responsibility.
“Let us defend the rights of the child,” it said.
The group said the proper way of dealing with children in conflict with the law included “positive parenting” to prevent misbehavior and strict “evidence-based” intervention.
It added that these children’s “developmentally immature brain” did not make them criminally liable for their actions and institutionalizing them could “increase (their) criminal behavior.”
Rather than punitive action, the group recommended mandatory “appropriate comprehensive assessment” of the child, his or her family, school and community.
Dr. Jean Poblete, a pediatrician for 25 years and a Filipino child health care advocate, said voiceless children would be oppressed by the proposed law.
“I am a bit unsettled with the recent developments. My very reason for becoming a doctor for children is to protect children, nurture life, health, (lead them) to the fullness of life. My tagline in my clinic is for them to have a future. But where is the future in this situation?,” the former PPS president told the Inquirer.
She said children in conflict with the law could be “branded X for life” if they are not cared for properly.
“I have no words to explain how pathetic, bleak their future is,” she said.
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