“Let us not forget the children. Children, especially those from the poorest communities are the most vulnerable victims in the proliferation of illegal drugs and even in the government campaign that seek to end it.”
Child rights advocate and Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Arlene Brosas raised this reminder as the House of Representatives kicks off its probe on narco-politics in pursuance of legislation to support the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs and criminality including that of lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility to nine years old.
“Nauunawaan naming ang kagustuhan ng administrasyong bigwasan ang pananalasa ng iligal na droga. Hindi rin maikakailang dumarami ang mga sindikatong gumagamit ng mga bata sa kanilang mga operasyon. Pero dapat tingnan na ang mga batang ito ay mga biktima, hindi sila mga kriminal at maling ituring sila bilang mga kriminal.”
The women’s partylist group is raising its opposition on proposals to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility and is pushing instead for rehabilitative measures and mechanisms to address children in conflict with the law.
Brosas reiterated that several studies have shown that lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility will not impact on lowering the crime rate in the country. She further cited a position paper from the Psychological Association of the Philippines indicate that a child’s maturity cannot be fully developed by age 9 and that circumstances and the environment surrounding the child must also be considered. “We must also remember to uphold international laws that seek to protect children to which our government is a signatory.”
“Let us first and foremost seek to reduce if not eliminate poor children’s vulnerability to criminal syndicates by making sure that they are in school and that their parents have jobs. Then let us enact measures that will strengthen and boost our capacity to rehabilitate children in conflict with the law to become productive contributors to our society. To lower the age of criminal responsibility and to treat children as criminals is not a panacea to the ills that the younger generation face.”#