Child rights drumbeat stand versus lowering of age of youth offenders

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BAGUIO CITY – Child rights advocates called on candidates running for both national and local elective positions to include in their campaign platforms concrete plans to promote children’s rights and welfare and express unequivocal opposition to the proposed enactment of a law that will lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility from the current 15 years old to 12.

Earlier, the House of Representatives passed its version of the bill, while the Senate version of the measure is already on second reading.

“Children’s rights were literally saved by the bell with both chambers of Congress going on recess to give way to the campaign season. However, after the elections, Congress will resume and will still have nine session days, wherein they could pass the measure patently dangerous bill,” Child Rights Network (CRN) Convenor Romeo Dongeto stressed.

The CRN officer claimed that all is not lost in their efforts to block the passage of the proposed lowering of the existing minimum age of criminal responsibility and with their current and aspiring legislators doing ground campaigning now, all child rights advocates have been called upon to make them feel that when there is widespread opposition to the lowering of the age of criminal responsibility, the same is being discussed in public for a, debates among other gatherings.

Child rights advocates challenged each and every candidate to take a stand, and listen to the resounding call of Filipinos not to endanger children’s rights and for them to make the issue of children’s rights and welfare at the heart of their plans.

|For the past several weeks, opposition to the moves to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility has exponentially with hundreds of groups including medical organizations and child experts expressing opposition to the proposal.

Further, dozens of evidenced-based research, policy reviews, and expert opinions all surfaced to show that there is no need to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility but what is urgently needed is for the State to fully implement pertinent Provisions of Republic Act (RA) 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006., particularly the ones creating and maintaining rehabilitative facilities for children.

On the other hand, neurological researches have also proven that a child’s brain undergoes a complex maturation process that progressively improves impulse control, risk assessment and effective recognition of effects of their actions; and that the said development process reaches its peak only at around age 15, the current minimum age of criminal responsibility.

An upcoming document from the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (UCRC) also supports the call for the lowering of the minimum age of criminal responsibility wherein under General Comment No. 24 which is set to replace GC No. 10-2007, that certain supporters of the lowering of the age of criminal responsibility have invaluably cited to support their position, the UNCRC has stated that even 12 years old is still too low to be set as the minimum age of criminal responsibility.

Dongeto asserted that it is high time to tell candidates seeking public office that if they want to be elected leaders, they should listen and heed the calls of the people. By Dexter A. See

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