UNICEF denounces bill lowering age of criminal liability

Published January 22, 2019, 1:46 PM

by AJ Siytangco

By MB Online

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) Philippines slammed the House’s approval of lowering the age of criminal liability to nine.


The organization said lowering the age of criminal responsibly does not address the root causes of why children commit crimes: “poverty, lack of parenting support programs, access to education, and other social services.”

“If we fail to understand the underlying reasons how and why children commit crimes, we, as adults, fail our children,” the children-oriented group said.

“Branding children as ‘criminals’ removes accountability from adults who are responsible for safeguarding them,” they added.

The group pointed out that neuroscience and child development studies state that brain function reaches maturity only at around 16 years old.

“Kapag ibinaba ang edad ng criminal responsibility sa nine, parang naniniwala na rin tayo na ang batang nine years old ay katulad na ng isang 18 years old na kayang mag desiyon kung sino ang iboboto niya, kailan siya ikakasal or pumirma sa kahit anong kontrata (If you lower the age of criminal responsibility to nine, it’s like believing that a nine-year-old kid is similar to an 18-year-old who can make decisions on who to vote, when to get married, or sign any kind of contract),” the organization said in a statement.

UNICEF Philippines also said there is “lack of evidence and data” pointing to children as the reason for the increase in crime rate in the Philippines.

“If lowering the age of criminal responsibility to nine years old is meant to protect children, what’s going to stop syndicates from exploiting even younger children?” the group said, adding that such move won’t discourage adults from “abusing children to commit crimes.”

In conclusion, the group called on lawmakers and Filipinos to support the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 (RA 9344) instead.

UNICEF also said that the law lacks support and funding for it to be properly implemented in the country.

House Committee on Justice on Monday approved the substitute bill on lowering the minimum age for criminal liability from 15 to nine.

Read more: House committee approves bill lowering age of criminal liability to nine