Hontiveros slams lowering age of criminal liability
MANILA, Philippines — The proposal to lower the minimum age of criminal liability, whether it be nine or 12 years old, is “immoral, unscientific and ineffective,” opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros said.
“There is no sense debating and choosing whether the MACR (minimum age of criminal responsibility) should be pegged at 12 or nine years old,” she said in a statement on Thursday.
“There is really no difference. Can a 12 year old compared to a nine year old get married, get a driver’s license, participate in elections, buy alcohol and watch R-16/18 films? The obvious answer is no. Minors, whether 12 or nine years old, are not equipped with the same intellectual and mental capacities as adults,” she added.
This after the House of Representatives approved on second reading a bill that seeks to lower the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12 years old, and not nine years old as earlier proposed.
“Namimili na ba tayo kung sinong mga bata ang aalagaan at alin ang isasakripisyo ng lipunan?,” Hontiveros said.
“The real question we should ask ourselves is if it is even proper for government to place the burden of blame for criminal acts on minors used by adult criminals and who cannot even be expected to take care of themselves,” she added.
The senator also considered the latest developments on the MACR as “saddening and alarming” with the “lack of appreciation for scientific data on the incomplete mental development and faculties” of minors.
“We have come to a point where, without concrete and well-researched data, government is deciding whether children at nine or 12 years old should be treated like fully-functioning adults under the law,” she said.
“It is a travesty for a country whose Constitution speaks of the right of children to special protection from neglect, abuse, cruelty, exploitation and other conditions prejudicial to their development,” she added.
Hontiveros also disagreed with arguments that implied that lowering the age of criminal liability will merely bring children to restorative and rehabilitative programs and not imprison them.
She argued that such outcome is possible with the “dismal condition of youth care facilities” as uncovered during Tuesday’s Senate hearing on the MACR.
“The reality is that if the MACR is passed without prior reforms to our rehabilitation facilities, more children will be subjected to conditions that are worse than prison,” the senator said.
“Instead of giving them the help that they need to be better citizens, we will instead bring them into an environment that further breeds unhealthy and even criminal behavior,” she added.
Hontiveros said that a “better and more thorough” implementation of the provisions of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act (JJWA), especially in relation to rehabilitation and restoration of the youth, can solve the cases of children in conflict with the law.
Under the JJWA, a child 15 years of age or under shall be exempted from criminal liability and will only be subjected to an “intervention program.”
She added that “Instead of thinking about at what age children should be considered as criminals” the government should instead focus its efforts on programs “that will ensure that [children] will stay out of conflict with the law.” /muf
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