Children Are Not Criminals: Lowering the Age of Responsibility

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The Philippine government is proposing a new law regarding the lowering of age on criminal liability from fifteen years old to nine years old, however, children at the time of the commission of the offense shall be exempted from criminal liability because they are just being used by adults and crime syndicates to commit crime and violate the law, children are still developing throughout the adolescence period and it will not contribute to lowering the crime rates in the Philippines.

According to Gita (2019), the reason behind the government lowering the age of criminal liability is meant to protect the children from being used by the lawbreakers. With this, adults and crime syndicates will stop using children to commit a crime and use them to violate the law. According to Flordelis (2019), impunity is the way of life, that is why syndicates are rewarded and victims are imprisoned. Nowadays, poor children are suffering from two sorts of syndicates. First is the syndicate on the streets that use them in stealing from other people or use them as a means in violating the law. It is evident that the adults exploiting the children who need to be penalized, not the children themselves. Children are used as petty sellers, but why go after them who do not understand what they are doing instead of going for the big syndicates? The second one is the precise syndicate in Congress or government in general, which criminalizes children in the guise of “protecting them,” when in fact, it is just all for their political convenience especially now that elections are near and it is just around the corner.

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Jail is open for everyone who commits crimes regardless of age, gender, and social status. As indicated by Amnesty International (2018), more than 50,000 kids in the Philippines have been detained and arrested since 2001. Rape, torture, assault and different types of cruel and inhumane treatment are a piece of regular daily existence for those kids while they're incarcerated. Most are accused of minor wrongdoings, such as petty theft, carnapping, sniffing solvents and vagrancy.

Jail is not a place for a child because they are still young and are not fully aware of what they are doing. According to Andrade (2017), the human brain is not fully developed in its capacity for cognitive functioning and emotional regulation. In fact, the capacity to distinguish between what is right and wrong continues to develop throughout adolescence. Moreover, it is damaging and harmful for a child’s development just like Evert, a 14-year old boy, who was arrested and brought to another detention center where he was locked in a cell with bigger older boys and immediately he was attacked and beaten by them. Thus, rather than the government implementing a new law that would put children in detention, lawmakers should focus on implementing the existing Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare act of 2006 and funding the construction of Bahay Pag - Asa (House of Hope) facilities in every city, as well as the employment of medical doctors, social workers, teachers and psychologists who will serve in the facilities for the children’s rehabilitation instead of punishing and jailing them because it would only condemn and damage them for life (Andrade, 2017).

Lowering the age in criminal liability will contribute to lowering crime rates in the Philippines. According to the Juvenile Justice Welfare Council, there is an increase in children being involved in crimes. One of the viral videos that became popular in social media that is being used to prove this skyrocketing crime rate is a number of children physically assaulting people on public transportations such as jeepney, and trying to steal something (Flordelis, 2019). With this, most cases are property offenses such as theft and carnapping committed by poor children who are out of school and from families experiencing violence or separation.

According to Lagman (2019), data show that children commit only 1.72% of reported crimes and most of them are poverty-induced crimes like theft. Lowering the age of criminal responsibility is not the solution to the problem that the country is facing regarding children being involved in criminal activities and violence. Poverty is the problem, which must be addressed and solved by the government first.

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