PHILIPPINES: Lowering age for criminal liability won't reduce crime, says Senator

[14 August 2013] - 

Lowering the criminal age for children will not solve the problem of more children being used for crime but will only worsen matters, Senator Maria Lourdes “Nancy” Binay has said.

Senator Binay said that the proposal to lower the minimum age for criminal liability (MACL) from 15 to 13 does not address the real evil - the adults who use children for crime or push them to  desperate circumstance, and will simply result in more  children becoming hardened criminals later .

“We might be missing the point here,” Binay said in opposition to efforts lowering the age of discernment and criminal responsibility.

There have been proposals to repeal Book I of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) and replace it with a new criminal code with provisions to lower the minimum age of criminal liability (MACL) to 13 years old.

“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 have gone astray.” Binay said.

Instead of creating a child-sensitive justice system, some people portray juvenile delinquents as hardened criminals, she noted, apparently referring to those reacting to the continuing rise of crimes involving children--even in cases like murder, rape or robbery with homicide. But, Binay stressed, "the point that we are driving at is the war against crime, and not war against children."

Besides, Binay said, “many contributing factors . . . can lead children to crime and we need to address these issues. If syndicates and gangs are using children in the operating their crimes, we must initiate stronger laws to counter them and save the children from the blame. These manipulated youth are also victims. We need to strengthen the fiber of our social systems and not only the penal system.”

The debate has also not been resolved yet on the age at which a better awareness is perceived. She said that children’s discernment of issues and the understanding of their actions vary depending on their upbringing and environment.

“We must not and brand juveniles for the wrong that they have done. We can still intervene, shape and save them with the proper education, counseling and support with a holistic approach that will affect their families and surroundings.“ Binay said.

Putting children in jail will not end the war against crime, but will only worsen the problem. "These kids are practically victims of circumstances," she explained.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has pegged the absolute age of criminal responsibility at 15 years old.

During the 15th Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate ratified House Bill 6052 and Senate Bill 3324 which retained the minimum age of criminal liability at 15 years. 





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