Our Youth Need Help, Not Punishment or Stigma
BAYAN-Canada strongly rejects the lowering of minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) in the Philippines from 15 to 12 years old. We condemn this measure as this will not address the underlying societal problems that push children to commit crimes. Sending children to jail will only exacerbate their trauma and inhibits positive growth. It will also increase recidivism, expand an already overcrowded prison population, and distract from the worsening social and economic policies of the current administration.
This unacceptable move to amend the present law, the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 (Republic Act 9344), turns the government’s back from its obligations as a signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Philippine Constitution and special laws protecting children.
Crime can be fully understood only in relation to the social structure, to specific social conditions and processes. Policing juvenile crimes only divert the public’s attention to the government’s responsibility in protecting and advancing children’s rights.
Instead of lowering the MACR, we urge the Duterte government to invest in community-based solutions that actually rehabilitate youth and offer them opportunities towards a brighter future. They must put forward plans of action such as the resumption of peace talks, to address the roots causes of abject poverty in the country.
As long as the character of the Philippines remain to be semi-colonial and semi-feudal, criminality cannot be resolved or drastically reduced. The issue of social inequality in the country must be addressed by giving livable and decent jobs to majority of Filipinos through genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization.
Our society would be better off not imprisoning children, but confronting the social inequalities that lead to criminal behavior in the first place. We must continue to fight actions such as this to protect our children from this political crisis.
(Sgd.) Christopher Sorio
(Sgd.) Rhea A. Gamana