Press Release
January 22, 2019

Gov't data negate calls for lowering age of criminal responsibility - Hontiveros

Government data and testimonies by government officials confirm that the country will be "sliding downwards" and will be going against scientific data and effective worldwide practices if it lowers the proposed minimum age of criminal responsibility, according to Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros.

During the first Senate hearing on the proposed minimum age of criminal responsibility, officials from the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council (JJWC) agreed with Hontiveros that differences in mental development between adults and growing children demand different classifications in criminal responsibility and liability as well.

Upon questioning by Hontiveros, JJWC Executive Director Tricia Oco said that minority is considered a "temporary disability" given that children are more susceptible to peer pressure, are more impulsive, and cannot be expected to use their discretion like adults. She noted that scientific reports peg the completion of mental development at 22 years old for women, and 25 years old for men - way above the age of majority (18 years old).

"The entire premise of having a separate set of laws for adult offenders and children in conflict with the law (CICL) is because children cannot be judged the same way as adults. Kaya nga hindi sila puwede manood ng R-18, hindi sila puwede bumoto, hindi sila puwede bumili ng alcohol, di sila puwede mag drive. In all these aspects of life, there are separate classifications for adults and children," Hontiveros said.

National Police Commission (Napolcom) Vice Chairman Rogelio Casurao likewise revealed that despite alarmist statements, children form below 2% of the total number of Filipinos in conflict with the law, according to data from the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Hontiveros noted the global trend to increase minimum ages of criminal responsibility worldwide, especially in countries where the mandated minimum age was low such as Australia, India and Indonesia. She added that the Philippines is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, whose monitoring body recommends higher minimum ages of criminal responsibility.

"So given that the global movement is upwards and not downwards, Bakit tayo paatras? Why do we want to slide back to the minimum, or even below the minimum? Is this a race to the bottom?" she said.

Hontiveros said that effective implementation -including ample funding of programs under the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act - would be better address cases of children in conflict with the law (CICL) rather than subjecting them to criminal proceedings and imprisonment. She added that better paternal, maternal and child care will also help keep minors away from being in conflict with the law.

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