MANILA - Various government agencies and non-government organizations strongly opposed the lowering of age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 9 years old, not only because of lack of scientific proof but also lack of facilities to house so-called children in conflict with the law (CICL).
In a press conference the Commission on Human Rights, Council for the Welfare of Children, Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, Unchain Children, Civil Society Coalition on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Philippine Action for Youth and Offenders, United Nations Children’s Fund, Psychological Association of the Philippines and Child Rights Network questioned the amendments being introduced by the House justice committee to the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act.
CHR Commissioner Leah Tanodra-Armamento said the government is not even prepared to house CICLs as there are only 58 Bahay Pag-asa facilities out of 114 as required by the law.
“The present Bahay Pag-asa does not meet the standards as they don’t have enough budget,” Armamento said.
Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas and Margarita Ardivilla, child protection specialist of UNICEF Philippines, also questioned the plan of putting CICLs in agricultural camps.
“Sinasabing agricultural lands matutulungan silang mabuti. Wala hong ganong pasilidad,” Ardivilla said.
(They said the agricultural lands will help the children. There are no such facilities.)
“Ano 'to magcha-child labor ang mga bata? Ano 'to concentration camp?” Brosas asked.
(Will the children be asked to do labor? Is this a concentration camp?)
Dr. Liane Alampay of the Psychological Association of the Philippines also reiterated the vulnerability of children and adolescents to coercion as well the danger of recidivism, based on scientific studies.
“The very acts of being detained makes it more likely that they will commit crimes pag nakalabas sila (when they go out) and they can relapse into criminal behavior after detention,” Alampay said.
CHR Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit also noted that the amendments to the law will violate international laws and standards, especially the Convention on the Rights of Child.
“This measure will not only regress but will reverse the trajectory towards the fulfillment of children’s rights,” Gomez-Dumpit said.