House Bill 6052 Threatens Children’s Human Rights
“With the proposed amendment on the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, specifically on the age of criminal responsibility, children above 12 are more prone to abuses and their human rights are threatened.“ This is the position of Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center (CLRDC) Inc., an NGO that monitors, documents and provides direct services such as awareness-raising and free legal assistance to children victim of violence. Rowena Legaspi, CLRDC Executive Director stressed that “lowering the age of criminal responsibility constitutes a grave breach on the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) which the Philippines has ratified and acceded to.“
Rule 4 of the Beijing Rules recommends that the beginning of minimum age of criminal responsibility shall not be fixed at too low an age level, bearing in mind the facts of emotional, mental and intellectual maturity. The committee also encourage States to increase its minimum age to a higher level (CRC Committee, General Comment No. 10: children’s rights in juvenile justice, UN document CRC/C/GC/10, 2007, paragraph 32).
Especially, the German delegation made the recommendation last week during the 2nd Cycle of Universal Periodic Review of the Philippines not to lower the age of criminal responsibility.
Alicia Bala, Undersecretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, said prosecuting children as young as 12 would also signify that the authorities had given up on the children. Bala said it was too early to judge the Juvenile Justice Law because it had yet to be implemented properly. She said children in conflict with the law should not be treated by the state as hardened criminals but as victims of circumstances beyond their control.
If the age of criminal responsibility is set to low, HB 6052 suggests, the notion of responsibility becomes meaningless. To avoid that, there should be made a close relationship between criminal liability and other social rights such as civil majority (Commentary, Rule 4 of “The Beijing Rules”).
Edith Mychalewicz, a PhD student in International law who is currently a Legal Research intern at CLRDC added that “there has yet been no study that lowering the age of criminal responsibility has a positive effect on the rate of children´s so called anti-social behaviour. Only sensible rehabilitation programs and respectful behaviour towards the young member of our society, can have a positive effect on lowering the number of cases of children in conflict with law.”
“Under no circumstances that House Bill 6052 is fair to our children! Consequences such as higher numbers of child prisoners will be a step backward on our common goal towards the full enjoyment of human rights by everyone,” Mychalewicz further stressed. CLRD and its nationwide networks of children’s organizations support the recommendations of Germany and Norway and pronounced that Juvenile Justice Law must be effectively implemented as amendment is not the solution for the State implementers’ failure to fulfil and discharge its human rights obligations to the children.”
Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center, Inc.
401-B, CRM Building, No. 106 Kamias Road, Quezon City
Tel. No. 4333199
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