By Chito Chavez
The National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) has expressed deep apprehension over the lowering of the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) from 15 years old to 12 years old which was approved in the third and final reading at the Lower House.
In a statement, the Office of the Vice-Chairperson for Basic Sectors (OVCBS) of NAPC stated that children living in poverty were at utmost risk with this piece of legislation.
While the office recognizes that children committing crimes is a reality, criminalizing deprives them of their dignity and denies them a better chance at life.
In the previous consolidated bill approved by the House Committee on Justice, the proposed MACR was nine years old that drew flak and opposition from children’s rights advocates, including the UNICEF, for being detrimental to rights and dignity of children.
Ruperto Aleroza of the OVCBS said the office and the NAPC-Children Sector remain steadfast in their call to defend the four fundamental rights of children to survival, development, protection and participation, as stipulated in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“Whether be it 12 or nine years old, children in conflict with the law should not be treated as criminals, but should be seen as victims of the vicious cycle of poverty and culture of violence and are in need of guidance, support and care from adults,’’ the statement read.
As guardians of the future generation, the OVCBS asserted the government should preserve preserving the dignity of the children.
The group insisted that concerned agencies should at all times safeguard the holistic development of children by strengthening rehabilitation and education programs for juvenile offenders and full implementation of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006.