Rights group cites other ways to deal with child offenders
New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Sunday urged Philippine lawmakers not to enact a bill that would lower the age of criminal responsibility, saying there were other ways of dealing with juvenile offenders “appropriate to their well-being.”
Among those ways, HRW said, are guidance and supervision orders, counseling, probation, foster care and education and vocational training.
Carlos Conde, Philippine researcher for HRW, said in a statement that under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was signed by the Philippines, the arrest, detention and imprisonment of juvenile offenders “should only be the last resort.”
“The Philippine government should be looking for ways to improve the rehabilitation of children who have broken the law, not putting more and younger children in horrible detention facilities out of the public view,” Conde said.
The House of Representatives has passed a bill lowering the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12.
The Senate is looking to pass its version of the proposal before Congress adjourns on Feb. 9.
Conde said passing the bill would throw more Filipino children into “a broken and debilitating system.”
“Legislators should drop the proposed law and refocus their energies on reforming existing government facilities for children or replacing them with better options,” Conde said.
Other human rights groups have called on Congress not to pass the bill and urged the government to fully implement the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act, which sets out the treatment of child offenders and provides funds for the operations of holding centers called Bahay Pag-asa.
Conde said the centers were overcrowded and poorly maintained.
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