Lowering age of criminal responsibility will be a ‘’nightmare’’:CHR
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Tuesday said the lowering of minimum age of criminal responsibility will be a “nightmare”
“In fact the sub-committee on the Prevention of Torture of the United Nations find the detention in the Philippines’ detention facilities is tortured by itself. So to lower the age to nine, will be a nightmare not only to a child but also to the jail management,” CHR Commissioner Leah Tanodra-Armamento said in a forum in Quezon City.
Armamento said of the 114 House of Hope or Bahay Pagasa facilities required by the law, only 58 were owned and being operated by the government.
Bahay Pagasa offers rehabilitation, diversion, and intervention to minors.
In a data showed, of the 58 facilities, only eight were accredited by the Department of Social Welfare and development while the rest are still completing their documents.
“The present Bahay Pagasa does not meet the standard required by the law as it does not have enough budget,” she said.
She added this law does not supported by any scientific data as studies showed that brains only mature at the age of 26.
She said amending this law “demands so much work” from the country’s overly work justice sector.
Armamento said lowering of minimum age of criminal responsibility is what President Rodrigo Duterte wants.
Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit reiterated their utmost “opposition” against the law.
“As the country’s human rights institution, we have a constitutional duty to monitor government compliance with international human rights obligations. And in this case, if it’s not being followed, we have to speak up,” Dumpit said in the same forum.
She said this bill is in “contravention” to the obligation of the country to progressively implement the Convention of the Rights of the Child.
“This measure will not only regress but will reverse the trajectory towards fulfillment of children rights particularly article 40 of the Convention on Juvenile Justice. Attention should also be drawn on article 41 which provide respect for higher standards,” Dumpit explained.
For her part, UNICEF representative, Ma. Margarita Ardivilla said the children needs proper discipline instead of sending them to prison if they commit something wrong.
“Children are no criminals. No infant was born violent instead they were born innocent but we (parents) are the one who mold them,” Ardivilla said.
She called on the government to get rid of the syndicates who used children in their illegal activities instead of imprisoning them
“The law should save the children that’s why we called (on the government) to listen to their rights and listen to the children,’’ she said,
Rommel Abitria of the Philippine Advocates for Youth Offenderssaid what the country needs in addressing the issues of the children is proper implementation of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act.
The Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 sets the age of criminal responsibility at 15 years old.
“How can you protect the children from the syndicates if you will punish them?” he asked.
“It’s not lowering of minimum age of criminal responsibility we need, proper implementation of the law is the solution,” he said.
Abitria said the government should support local government units who took care and give opportunities to the young.
“They need to budget, they need technical assistance to implement the law so that they will not be use by the syndicates,” he said.
Gabriela Partylist Rep. Arlene Brosas said we should check what the reality in our country is before we compare the bill with other countries who have lower ages for criminal responsibility.
“What is the condition in Singapore? What kind of centers they have? Maybe we should check because our reality may seems to be the problem here then we will subject the children with them?” Brosas said.
Singapore’s minimum age of criminal responsibility is 10 years old.
The Child Rights Network said it is “possible” for the international groups to pressure the country to prevent them from implementing the said law.
Some children rights groups said they are also risk of putting victimized children with the suspected ones in one place as it is more prone to abuses.
They said they have encountered abuse cases inside detention facilities because they are no proper program.
CRN said they will conduct an indignation rally once the bill passes Congress. Ella Dionisio/DMS