[Statement] 2019 Salinlahi statement on the non-passage of LMACR bill

Salinlahi congratulates the organizations and advocates that have been actively taking part in the campaign against the lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12 years old. Such triumph, although maybe temporary, considering the current political landscape, is undeniably a leap forward in our collective struggle in protecting and defending the rights and welfare of Filipino children and their marginalized families.

It is noteworthy to underscore the concerted efforts of the broad opposition that foiled the attempt to legislate this anti-children and anti-poor measure despite the fact that such measure is included among the 12 priority legislative agenda of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Salinlahi together with various child rights groups in the Philippines persevered in emphasizing that entrenched poverty in the country is one of the push factors why thousands of children resort to committing crimes for survival; that the government should perceive children in conflict with the law (CICL) as victims of circumstances they are into and therefore should be treated in a restorative way; that there are already scientific studies and researches showing that the developmental immaturity of children mitigates their criminal culpability and; that the move to lower the minimum age of criminal liability is tantamount to abandoning our international commitment on children’s rights. Moreover, we also highlighted the urgency of fully implementing the JJWA before any amendments to the law.

We prevailed in our stand that the promotion of the rights and welfare of children is mainly an obligation of the state, which is a sharp contrast to Duterte’s fascist and tyrannical leadership as it put the lives of Filipino children in great peril by implementing policies like war on drugs, martial law in Mindanao and by also proposing the revival of mandatory reserved officer’s training corps (ROTC) for senior high school.

In 2017, Salinlahi led the formation of Unity of Child Rights Advocates Against Inhumane Treatment of Neglect of Children (UNCHAIN Children) that lobbied with various government agencies and officials. Various advocacy activities were conducted in offices, in schools, and in communities in order to create wide public support that could reinforce our initiatives at the policy level. Legislative forum in the House of Representatives and Senate of the Philippines was initiated to raise the awareness of the legislators and their staff on the issue and convince them not to support the proposed amendment. Meanwhile, lawmakers were insistent on their argument that syndicates are using children in criminality.

We express gratitude to all the child rights groups, human rights organizations, medical professionals, faith-based institutions and child experts who actively participated in the committee and sub-committee hearings as well as plenary sessions to discuss our stand that only fell on the deaf ears of most of the legislators who deviously railroad its approval in the lower house.

We highly commend the 34 legislators who voted down the proposed bill including the party-list representatives of the Makabayan Bloc such Gabriela, Bayan Muna, Kabataan, Kabataan, and Anakpawis – who also delivered privilege speeches and interpellated during plenary sessions to re-echo our position. At the same time, we highly appreciate the commitment of some senators to defend the JJWA including Grace Poe, Nancy Binay, Francis Pangilinan, Riza Hontiveros, Win Gatchalian, Sonny Trillanes, Bam Aquino and Leila De Lima.

More importantly, Salinlahi commends the more than 600 organizations and individuals that are actively campaigning against the passage of the bill including the member organizations of Salinlahi, UNCHAIN Children, Child Rights Network (CRN), Civil Society Coalition on Convention on the Rights of the Child (CSC-CRC), National Council for Social Development (NCSD), Philippine Action for Youth Offenders (PAYO), UNICEF, among others. We also give thanks to showbiz and media personalities who also joined in the #ChildrenNotCriminals #NotoLoweringMACR campaign such as Catriona Gray, Anne Curtis, Cherry Pie Picache, Pen Medina, Ebe Dancel, and Ryza Cenon.

We also recognize all the individuals especially children who mobilized during the coordinated actions that serve as a platform to sharply register our call. Creative forms of protest were also maximized including candle-lighting, dancing, street and theater plays, songwriting and visual arts.

It’s truly a success in our children’s work advocacy in the Philippines. We’ve learned a lot of lessons that could be replicated in our future campaigns on issues concerning children, specifically the importance of creating linkages and unity between various groups and sectoral organizations, both local and international, in order to deliver a strong message towards the government and policymakers.

The fight for children’s rights and welfare is far from over. We are certain that there will be another attempt in the 18th Congress to lower the MACR, especially with the overwhelming victory of Duterte’s allies in Congress. Therefore there still is a need to sustain the victory we have achieved in this campaign to overcome the challenging period ahead.

The people united will never be defeated! ###

For the Filipino Children,

Salinlahi Alliance For Children’s Concerns

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