Child rights groups stage third public mobilisation vs lowering age of criminal liability

Written by James Adrian G. Panganiban
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After a series of public indignation last January 25 and 30, groups against lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) trooped at the Senate Gate for a third time on February 4 to urge senators to rethink the amendment of the R.A. 9344 otherwise known as the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act.

The opposition, which amassed far more protesters compared to previous assemblies, was one in saying that lawmakers should prioritize putting minors’ best interest at the heart of their discussions.

Child Rights Network (CRN) was at the forefront of the protest in expressing their vehement disapproval of the impending bill, saying that the children’s way of life is only a reflection of the society they live in. CRN argued that as victims, children should be nurtured instead rather than be painted as criminals.

Eule Rico Bonganay of Salinlahi echoed the same sentiments as he described the proposal to lower the MACR as a scheme that turns a blind eye on social realities. Several factors like the disregard for the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act, the apparent lack of social workers, and ineptitude regarding law enforcement that could lead to children ending up in jail, further support his argument of the bill being anti-poor and anti-children.

Meanwhile, members of the Kabataan Partylist called the government out for its attempt to cover up their inadequacies in the form of the proposed bill, all the while dismissing plunderers unaccountable of their crimes.

For their part, the DLSU Law Paralegal Volunteers Organization challenged the government not to repeal but implement the existing provisions of the law. Similarly, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) recognizes that children play an integral part in society and that the situation they find themselves in is a clear indication of the country’s rotten system.    

Other groups present in the mobilization include the Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation (HLAF), Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDefend), Bahay Tuluyan, Gabriela, and Save the Children among others. 

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