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Bishops oppose bid to lower age of criminal liability

June 20, 2016 ·  By www.ucanews.com/

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Incoming Philippine president aims to lower minimum child prosecution ceiling from 15 to 12 years old

Incoming president Rodrigo Duterte plans to lower the minimum age for criminal responsibility for minors following reports a growing number of street children are involved in criminal activities. (ucanews.com photo by Eloisa Lopez)

Incoming president Rodrigo Duterte plans to lower the minimum age for criminal responsibility for minors following reports a growing number of street children are involved in criminal activities. (ucanews.com photo by Eloisa Lopez)

The Philippine bishops’ Commission on Pastoral Care has voiced strong opposition to a plan by the incoming administration to lower the minimum age for child prosecutions from 15 to 12.

“These kids are victims themselves so why penalize them?” said Rodolfo Diamante, executive secretary of the commission.

He said lowering the age of criminal liability is not a solution to the problem of children being involved in crimes.

“[Authorities] should instead go after those using children in criminal activities,” said Diamante.

He said the proposed law is a short-term fix for a problem that requires long-term efforts.

Changing the age of criminal liability is among the priorities announced by incoming president Rodrigo Duterte who said crime syndicates are exploiting Filipino minors.

Duterte said criminal responsibility starts as early as age 10.

Diamante called on Duterte and his allies in Congress to rethink their position, adding that children are not to blame if they end up committing crimes.

“The government should make decisions based on studies and not from the leaders’ own observations,” said Diamante.

He said the incoming president’s proposal goes against studies that show most children below 14-years-old still “lack discernment.”

A 2002 study done by the Philippine Action for Youth and Offenders, a child rights network assisting children in conflict with the law, show that the “age of discernment” of Filipino children who don’t attend school is 18-years-old.

Another study done by the state-run University of Manila also found that the age of discernment of in-school Filipino children is 15-years-old.

“These studies validated that these minors don’t know what is right or wrong,” said Diamante, who had been working in the Catholic Church’s prison ministry for more than two decades.

According to the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council, the Philippines is home to over 11,000 “children in conflict with the law.”

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