'Children are not criminals'

A multi-sector network opposes the lowering of the minimum age of criminal responsibility

Various groups have banded together to oppose House Bill No. 002 known as the “Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility Act.” The bill principally authored by Rep. Fredenil Castro (2nd District of Capiz) seeks to lower the minimum age of liability from 15 to nine years. Castro claims that crime increased because children are being used as drug couriers.

As the House of Representatives Committee on Justice holds a closed-door executive session to discuss the legislative proposal of lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility of children in conflict with the law, UNCHAIN Children (Unity of Child Rights Advocates Against Inhumane Treatment and Neglect of Children), a network composed of multi-stakeholders voiced its opposition against the proposed legislation. House Bill No. 002 – a priority bill in the 17th Congress is an “anti-poor” and anti-child” according to the network.

UNCHAIN Children, which is composed of representatives of various child rights institutions, women’s advocates, youth organizations, urban poor sector, members of the academe, legislators and faith-based groups does not agree with the proponents that children as young as nine years old can act with discernment, and comprehends fully well the consequences of their actions. Instead, the network believes that the government should not regard juvenile offenders as criminals, as they are victims of poverty and state neglect.

The measure is pending before the House Committee on Justice chaired by Rep. Reynaldo Umali (2nd District of Oriental Mindoro). A counterpart measure is pending in the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, chaired by Senator Dick Gordon.

Photo courtesy of SALINLAHI PH

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