By Mario Casayuran
The political opposition needs more voices to speak up against an anti-children measure as the Senate has only one day left to deliberate on whether or not to lower the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12.
Unless President Duterte calls Congress to a special session this Thursday and Friday because the Senate and the House of Representatives could not agree on the pesky pork barrel allocations in the proposed 2019 P3.7 trillion national budget, the measure is bound to finds its way to the dust bin.
Both legislative chambers are scheduled to go on a three-month election recess starting this Thursday.
After a plenary session yesterday, both the Senate and the Lower House closed their doors today for the Chinese New Year and reopens tomorrow for its scheduled last session day.
Lawmakers insist that crime rates are part of their basis to lower the minimum age of responsibility despite numerous statements by Children’s Rights Networks, international non-government organizations and medical professionals that 9 or 12 is “too young,’’ Senator Francis N. Pangilinan, president of the Liberal Party (LP), said.
‘’Why then should it be lowered when PNP (Philippine National Police) data itself shows that the number of crimes committed by children aged 9 to 11 years old was lower by almost 500 from 2016 to 2018? Those committed by children 12-14 years old were lower by as much as 2,000 in the same time frame,’’ he asked.
Pangilinan recalled that during the Senate hearing last January 25, the UNICEF stated that the problem with the law lies with the implementation.
UNICEF Representative Lotta Sylwander was quoted as saying that the Juvenile Justice Welfare law “is a very solid law” and “there seems to be no accountability to implement it.”
‘’As reaction to the proposed measure, several protest actions were made in the Senate and Congress grounds in the weeks preceding the deliberations, calling for lawmakers to reconsider their stand. Netizens even started using the hashtags #ChildrenNotCriminals, #TulongHindiKulong and #Not9Not12, changing their profile pictures to indicate that “jail is no place for a child,’’ Pangilinan pointed out.