MY HEAD is whirling. Where do I stand on this one?
“Senate justice committee chair Dick Gordon also wants to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 12, for the simple reason that the President requested it.” (cnnphilippines.com) Some argue that “Young Filipinos would be responsible for their actions. Lowering the age of criminal liability is part of the legislative agenda of President Duterte as a means to ensure that the Filipino youth would accept responsibility for their actions and be subjected to government intervention programs, “ he said in a statement. “ (https://www.debate.org)
“Senate youth committee chair Joel Villanueva said making nine-year-olds are too young to be made accountable for crimes. He also questioned the argument of the measures’ proponents and the Palace who said that the lowering the MACR would protect children from syndicates.” “Detained Senator Leila de Lima said lowering the MACR is “to debase our humanity as a people,” stressing that the present Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, which increased
the MACR to 15 years old, only need to be implemented well.” Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said the proposed law is anti-family and unjust and argued that children have yet to develop a better grasp of right and wrong. He suggested counseling and rehabilitation as an alternative to imprisonment. Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said lowering the MACR should be backed by evidence and not be enacted “on whims and unproven theories.” Sen. Nancy Binay says ““Even though we are serious in stopping juvenile crime, lowering the age of criminal responsibility may not be the best way to save children who may have gone astray,” Sen. JV Ejercito says, “They should not go to regular jail because they need rehabilitation. It’s the criminals who use minors that deserve heavy penalties,” “In a privilege speech, Senator Risa Hontiveros said children and adolescents are more vulnerable to being enticed or abused by criminal syndicates as their brains are still developing.” “Senator Bam Aquino said lowering the minimum age of criminal liability to nine is “crazy ... cruel and ... immoral.” (cnnphilippines.com) “The latest Pulse Asia Survey showed that 55 percent of Filipinos preferred to keep the minimum age of criminality at 15 years old, Up to which age they would be spared from criminal penalty.” (https:// www.debate.org) Yes. This would be utterly ridiculous when we operate under the assumption of an ideal society of child innocence and juvenile virtue, in that utopian ideal of the child waking up early, diligently going to school to study, meekly approaches when called, responds with “po” in every low pitch muttered sentence, and goes home early straight from school. This would be downright deplorable when we bask in the thought of children only concerned with pure play, overflowing of good values, fresh out of a promotional or religious TV show. This is unacceptable for children from Sesame Street and Barangay Batibot who would hop around the streets talking to avian and shelled mascots or cookie munching or primate puppets. But we all know that this is not what life really is.
But it should be understood that this proposition did not come out of nowhere. Something pushed this dilemma to come into being. Presumably innocent children have become increasingly involved with commission of crimes, in undeniable consciousness and calculation, that in many cases, it can be very difficult to intelligently convince oneself that they were mere victims of circumstance, or manipulated by masterminding adults. It has become commonplace for children to rise up with unspeakable irreverence unheard of in past traditions.
On the other hand, would criminal responsibility effectively address these concerns? What do we hope to achieve in the first place? A better and safer society? More disciplined children? Reformation of delinquents? Would conviction of younger criminals attain any of these? Well, for the sake of argument, maybe. Maybe incarceration teaches lessons. Maybe it would scare students straight. Maybe, a lower age of criminal responsibility does teach some responsibility. But has not DSWD been doing something similar to that? Would it not cater as a cocoon for criminals? Does not penalty only push the perpetrator? Would not such a system embolden towards more misconduct because of the numbing experience of detention?
Through these thundering of thoughts, the spectator may neglect the realization that this is what our world has come to. We have come to the point in human development in which all strata of society seem to be stretched with criminal responsibility, that corruption has infected the seams of sections of society that people in power propose on putting pupils in prison.
“Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him.”