Press Release
January 24, 2019

Hontiveros: Whether 9 or 12 years old, lowering age of criminal liability immoral, unscientific and ineffective

Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros today called out the "false debate" surrounding the proposal to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) in the country, saying that both proposals to make nine year old or twelve year old children criminally liable are "immoral, unscientific and ineffective."

"There is no sense debating and choosing whether the MACR should be pegged at 12 or 9 years old. There is really no difference. Can a 12 year old compared to a 9 year old get married, get a driver's license, participate in elections, buy alcohol and watch R-16/18 films? The obvious answer is no. Minors, whether 12 or 9 years old, are not equipped with the same intellectual and mental capacities as adults," Hontiveros said.

"Namimili na ba tayo kung sinong mga bata ang aalagaan at alin ang isasakripisyo ng lipunan? The real question we should ask ourselves is if it is even proper for government to place the burden of blame for criminal acts on minors used by adult criminals and who cannot even be expected to take care of themselves," she added.

Hontiveros said that the latest developments on the MACR have "been saddening and alarming," given the lack of appreciation for scientific data on the incomplete mental development and faculties of young individuals below 18 years old.

"We have come to a point where, without concrete and well-researched data, government is deciding whether children at 9 or 12 years old should be treated like fully-functioning adults under the law. It is a travesty for a country whose Constitution speaks of the right of children to special protection from neglect, abuse, cruelty, exploitation and other conditions prejudicial to their development," she said.

Hontiveros also shot down arguments implying that the lowering of the MACR will not result in the imprisonment of children, but will merely bring them to restorative and rehabilitative programs. She said that such outcome is impossible, given the dismal condition of youth care facilities at present, as uncovered during the last Senate hearing on the MACR bill.

"The reality is that if the MACR is passed without prior reforms to our rehabilitation facilities, more children will be subjected to conditions that are worse than prison. Instead of giving them the help that they need to be better citizens, we will instead bring them into an environment that further breeds unhealthy and even criminal behaviour," she said.

According to Hontiveros, the solution to the cases of children in conflict with the law lies in the better and more thorough implementation of the provisions of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, especially in relation to rehabilitation and restoration of the youth: "Instead of thinking about at what age children should be considered as criminals, we should instead focus our efforts on programs that will ensure that they will stay out of conflict with the law."

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