For this week’s editorial, we are in solidarity adopting the statement of Tindig Pilipinas on the recent approval by the House Committee on Justice of a measure lowering the age of criminality of children.
Tindig Pilipinas, for those who do not know yet, is a cause-oriented group established in 2017. It calls on the government to be committed to human rights, peace, and the rule of law. The group is a union of coalitions and citizens who are alarmed and outraged by alleged extrajudicial killings (EJKs) in President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. They also want the President to stop his objectification of women and his resort to the language of misogyny.
Here now is their latest statement against the bill seeking to lower the age of criminality of children to nine years old, or those children who are still in their grade school, or who are out in the streets scavenging for food, because their parents couldn’t afford to send them to school:
THE proposal to lower criminal liability to 9 years old being pushed by House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and consistent with President Duterte’s criminal philosophy reveals an inescapable conclusion: Small minds think alike.
It is a truism that our children are the most vulnerable members of our society, incapable of the same level of discernment as adults that would prompt them to commit themselves willfully to a life of crime. Children involved in criminal wrongdoing are by and large, pawns dictated by the poverty that enveloped their surroundings or by elders who see fit to employ them to escape the long arm of the law. This fact is so obvious that it boggles the mind why politicians who are mandated to protect the weakest members of our society have seen fit to punish them.
One can only surmise that Speaker Arroyo who has grandchildren of her own seeks to please President Duterte’s warped criminal philosophy. The idea of lowering criminal responsibility to 9 years old is symptomatic of his approach to the War on Drugs: President Duterte does not go after the drug lords or those who are primarily responsible, he goes after and kills the victims of the drug war, that is, drug users that require rehabilitation the most.
Similarly, this bill does not seek to strengthen the justice system, it seeks to go after the weakest link, victims of poverty and manipulation: the children who should otherwise be in school or in the company of loved ones.
Our children need help, not punishment. They need a loving environment that can nurture them, not a prison where they are exposed to the banality of evil. These children, who through no fault of their own, and whose only luck was to be born to poverty need our protection and our support.
How lucky it is to be a grandchild of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Rodrigo Roa Duterte and the other lawmakers who will now decide the fate of children exposed to poverty. Unlike them, their children and grandchildren are perhaps growing up in a life pampered with wealth and the spoils of fortune and will never feel a day of hunger or strife.
We in Tindig Pilipinas urge our lawmakers to be compassionate to our children. We ask them to reconsider and vote against this merciless bill and propose measures to reduce poverty and most of all, to protect our most vulnerable members and ensure that the future hope of our country are given a fighting chance to be worthy members of our society.
Post Script: The latest we heard is that the House of Representatives, in an unprecedented move, approved on second reading as we go to press Wednesday a bill seeking to lower the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12 years old, and not nine years old as earlier proposed. The lower chamber swiftly approved House Bill No. 8858 through a vote of ayes or nays only two days after it was approved at the committee level.