MANILA - Lowering the age of criminal responsibility does more harm than good, a developmental psychologist warned Monday, as the House justice committee approved a measure that institutionalizes children as young as 9.
"Masisira, manganganib 'yung future ng mga kabataan 'pag dumaan sila sa criminal justice system," Dr. Liane Peña Alampay told "Bandila sa DZMM."
(It imperils the children's future if they undergo the criminal justice system.)
"Kung linabel ka ng lipunan mo na kriminal ka, delingkuwente ka, aakuin nila 'yan," added Alampay, a member of the Psychological Association of the Philippines and a professor at the Ateneo de Manila University.
(If society labels them as criminal or delinquent, they will own it.)
Alampay stressed that the rational part of a person's brain, called prefrontal cortex, isn't fully developed even until 20s.
The prefrontal cortex governs decision-making, controls impulses, and regulates behavior.
"Ito rin ang dahilan bakit madaming teenager, marami talagang kagaguhang ginagawa ika nga 'di ba. Kasi at that point in their lives, nabubuo pa ang kapasidad ng ganung klaseng pag-iisip," she said.
(It's also the reason why teenagers go through a rough patch because their ability to plan and think rationally is still developing.)
Instead of pushing a hard-line approach on children in conflict with the law (CICL), Alampay urged lawmakers to review the implementation of Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, which exempts children 15 years old and younger from criminal liability.
To address juvenile delinquency, the government must provide a strong support system that would promote positive behavior on children, she said.
Most CICL, Alampay said, came from unhealthy environment exposed to crime and violence.
"Kailangan nila ay tamang pagmamagulang, pagkalinga. Nababantayan sila. Napapalayo sa karahasan ng kanilang komunidad," she said.
(What they need is good quality parenting. They must feel protected. They are not exposed to violence in their communities.)
Under the proposed measure, children won’t be jailed with regular inmates but put in reformative institution, such as “Bahay Pag-asa” (House of Hope).
If the child reaches 18 years of age and does not reform and upon proper intervention, that’s the time the convict will be mixed with ordinary inmates.
However regardless of the penalties, the convict shall be freed at age 25. In no case shall the maximum penalty exceed 15 years.
"Hindi ko lubos maisip ang kanilang logic kung bakit 9 years old ang kanilang MACR," Alampay said.
(I couldn't fathom why the set the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 9.)