(Sen. Leila de Lima’s statement on the lowering of the age of criminal responsibility was read during a press conference after the Jan. 25 Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights’ hearing with Sen. Richard Gordon. In attendance at the press conference were different child rights organizations, advocates, and students. Sen. de Lima’s statement is being published with permission below.)
Dispatch from Crame No. 453:
To lower Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility (MACR)
is to debase our humanity (22 January 2019)
A government that targets the children in a fake drug war, and moves to declare them as criminals is not a government for the people. It is a criminal syndicate – a bunch of goons bent on ruling under a climate of fear, violence and utter inhumanity.
Just yesterday, the House Committee on Justice approved a bill to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) from 15 years of age to just nine (9). Not to be outdone, the Senate leadership committed to prioritize a similar bill that may consider reducing to 11 years of age.
Hindi lamang nakakabahala ang mga ito. Ang mga ito’y kahindik-hindik! Such a monstrosity can only be possible in a regime that sits on a pile of slain children – Kian delos Santos, Kulot de Guzman, Danica May Garcia and many other kids who fell victims of “drug war” killings.
There is no evidence showing that children are responsible for the increase in crime rate in our country. There is no study that lowering MACR will deter syndicates and adult offenders from preying on children and using them to commit crimes.
Worse, the current proposals do not address the root causes of juvenile delinquency: poverty and exploitation by adult criminals.
What should be prioritized are policies and programs that will help poor families. Trabahong disente, sahod na sapat, pagkaing angkop, at maaasahang edukasyon, tulong medikal at iba pang serbisyong panlipunan gaya ng 4Ps.
Children in conflict with the law (CICL) are not criminals; they are victims. Lowering MACR will not end the incidence and cycle of crime; it will aggravate the situation. It will drive our hapless children to further exploitation by adult offenders, and push them to more anti-social behavior.
What should be done instead is penalizing the predators – the negligent parents and other abusive adults – like what I am suggesting in the very first bill that I filed at the start of Congress on 30 June 2016, Senate Bill No. 195, that seeks to define and punish criminal exploitation of children.
To lower MACR is to debase our humanity as a people. What we need instead is for the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act to be fully and faithfully implemented with effective services and programs for prevention and response, as well as reintegration of children back into their families and communities. This is the thrust in my proposed Senate Resolution No. 171 that I filed as early as September 2016.
Said law, the Pangilinan Law, is not the culprit. It is a good law. Nothing wrong with it, but for the want in its full implementation. No amount of bashing of said law by Duterte can change this fact.
Hindi sapat ngayon na itanong kung ano ang itinuturo natin sa ating mga anak. Ang mas tamang tanong: ano ang ginagawa natin para sa kanila? Sa isang gobyernong pinapatay ang mga bata sa isang madugong kampanya kontra-droga, sa isang lideratong ituturing na kriminal ang mga musmos, ano ang ating tugon o aksyon?
Pagtutol! At sama-samang pagsisikap sa paghanap ng mga pangmatagalang solusyon upang tiyakin na ang ating mga anak at lahat ng bata at kabataan ay mamuhay sa isang pamayanan at lipunang ligtas mula sa krimen, karahasan at kahirapan.
#ChildrenNotCriminals. No to any lowering of MACR! ###