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UNICEF opposes lowering of criminal age

October 22, 2008 ·  By Llanesca T. Panti, Reporter


By Llanesca T. Panti, Reporter
The Manila Times, Wednesday, October 22, 2008

LOWERING the criminal liability age is not the solution to the problem of syndicates using children as their operatives, a United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) official said Tuesday.

Lawyer Alberto Muyot of Unicef said the adults involved in syndicates using children should be the ones who should be held liable, because they made the children do crimes that is a violation of their right to survival, protection and development.

“Putting these children to jail is injustice. It is the adults who exploited the children by getting them involved in crimes. So it is the adults that should be the ones put behind bars,” Muyot said.

He was reacting to moves aimed at lowering the criminal liability age back to nine, because of reports that criminals are becoming younger and younger.

The Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 earlier increased the age of criminal responsibility toa 15 from nine years of age. Since its implementation, around 3,000 children were released from jail and underwent under various community-based programs and rehabilitation administered by the Social Welfare department and Unicef. Among the interventions made are helping children get back to school or gain employment and providing micro financing for their parents.

Muyot also noted that while around 10,000 children have been the subjects of police complaint in the past years, only 1,000 of them were proven guilty of their crime.

Exposed to hazards of jail “Instead of exposing them to the hazards of the jail, we should have them benefit thru these programs,” Social Welfare Undersecretary Alicia Bala said.

“One thing more, we haven’t heard of any member of the syndicate who was arrested for deploying children,” she added.

Muyot also argued that the 15-year-old mark is a justified limit for holding a person liable for a crime, citing a study done by the Council for the Welfare of Children that concluded that the age of discernment of a Filipino in school begins at 15 years.

Likewise, a study by the Philippine Action for Youth Offenders found that the age of discernment begins at 18 years of age among those out of school. Both studies were based on the Kohlberg cognitive-developmental framework on moral development.

“We also found out that 70 per- cent of them just committed petty offenses, mainly property-related, while 80 percent were first-time offenders. If we don’t help these children, what will happen to their future?,” he said.


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