By Leslie Ann Aquino
The Federation of Free Workers said lowering the minimum age for criminal liability will only worsen child labor cases in the Philippines.
“At age 9, a child has had no chemistry subjects, thus would be unable to mix components to create an illegal substance. A child would have no access to the same, unless led into the lion’s den by abusive adults,” Julius Cainglet, vice president of FFW, said in a statement.
“Masterminds would easily escape criminal liability by laying the blame on innocent children, who are incapable of resisting and evading arrest, nor easy access to legal defense. This will artificially increase the incidence of child labor,” he added.
Cainglet, who is also the chairperson of the advocacy committee of the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC), said children should not be punished for the society’s failure to care for, guide and bring up the child in the way the child should go.
“Our present laws clearly point to the children’s parents, guardians and most especially criminal syndicates who victimize children, as accountable for illegal or illicit activities that involve children,” he said.
Under the #1MBatangMalaya campaign, the Philippines has vowed to remove 1 million children from child labor by 2025. There are 2 million children engaged in child labor.
Cainglet said the passage in Congress of a bill lowering the minimum age for criminal liability would be a major setback for the internationally renowned efforts at ending child labor.
“It goes against our desire to amend child labor laws aimed at strengthening the NCLC towards providing more love, care and protection for our children,” he said.