By SUSAN PALMES-DENNIS
But here I’ll try to spell out the arguments for and against the bill which is personally quite troubling for a lot of people especially those of a generation or two ago who still remember a time when nine years old is still considered the age of innocence.
I learned that nearly a week from now, a congresional committee approved a bill that would lower the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to nine years old. And it has drawn quite a firestorm of debates, protests and arguments for and against it that it had become a political issue of great importance.
It also offers taxpayers the chance to make their voices heard on deliberations for the bill in town hall or barangay/village settings.
Susan’s Notes will try to take stock of these debates and in fact I asked two great lawyers in Cagayan de Oro about their positions on the issue, a critical issue that will touch the very heart of our views on criminality and how far government will go in cracking down on it.
I would like to believe that the proponents have a sound argument to lower the age of criminal liability from 15 years old to nine years old.
I see no other reasons the rationale behind the proposal to amend the criminal law if ultimately passed by legislation and signed into law. Are there so many nine year old kids implicated in grievous crimes that they deserve to be treated like adults and locked away in cells nationwide?
Former Provincial Board (PB) member Oscar Musni said this proposed bill only showed that the Philippines is going to the dogs as far as law enforcement is concerned.
There is no denying the fact that there are a lot of streets kids, most of whom grow up to be young adult offenders who find themselves behind bars and staying there for the longest time, even for the remainder of their natural life.
Carlo Antonio B. Almirante, Dean of Liceo de Cagayan University’s College of Law admitted that he supports the bill citing as basis reports that poor kids as young as six years old are recruited into the ranks of syndicates.
He said this is made possible with the consent of parents or guardians who are abusive, negligent or are recidivist themselves. Almirante also argued that contrary to the assertions of critics, the bill is rehabilitative and not penal in nature as far as young offenders are concerned.
He said under the bill the parents and guardians are held equally liable and I share his sentiments since I think the adults bear responsibility for their children’s misdeeds.
But like me, Dean Almirante had yet to fully read the contents of the bill so a proper assessment is not forthcoming.
I don’t know if Musni read the bill in its entirety but he is quick to say that the proposed legislation is cruel and insensitive. He asserts that crimes committed by minors are borne out of poverty and lack of opportunity which I fully agree with.
A little throwback: I visited a rehabilitation center for juvenile delinquents called Tahanan or whatever it is called nowadays and sadly, the place looks and smells like a regular prison cell that reeks of urine and cockroaches.
In my past life as a media practitioner I saw for myself how underage offenders are mixed with hardened adult criminal suspects in regular jails. I don’t have to say to you that life in prison is hard.
These minor offenders may be committing their crimes at the behest of their parents or guardians, who knows. But they are pawns and not fully aware of the consequences of their actions, unlike their adult counterparts.
I agree with Atty.Musni that any rise in criminal cases involving minors can be traced to failure by government and stakeholders to improve their lot in life. More is urgently needed.
Lowering the age of criminal liability from 15 years old to nine years old is not the way to rectify the worsening criminality rate. That the bill is tied to political expediency makes it all the more alarming and galling.
I suggest that the Senate carefully deliberate and review this bill from the Lower House and not rush its approval. A national conversation among all stakeholders on this issue should be the call of the day for everyone who cares enough about the welfare of the country’s children.
It is also my humble opinion that a bill should be passed penalizing parents, guardians and caretakers for failure to guide and supervise their children who end up being criminals.
It is the parents and guardians who should be held liable. I still pray for a Philippines where the future of the next generation is secured. (Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Instagram at carolina1girl)
Feb 21, 2019 0CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Good news to the parents of offenders and addict kids in the city! A new rehab facility is now in the planning stage, according to a press statement released to the media. The new rehab building facility will be constructed just beside the Mother Teresa Compound in sitio...
Feb 21, 2019 0