“Passing the buck” and the lowering of the age of criminal liability

When the state is most corrupt, then the laws are most multipied.

– Tacitus

On January 21, 2018, the Justice Committee panel of the House of Representatives (HOR) approved the substitute bill that would amend Republic Act 10630 which previously amended the  Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 (RA No. 9344). Under the substitute bill, children 9 to 14 years old who will commit serious crimes – such as murder, parricide, infanticide, serious illegal detention, carnapping, and violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 – be subjected to “mandatory confinement” for rehabilitation at Bahay Pag-asa.

In line with this, I posted a meme of a child behind bars with the caption: Ba’t natin ikukulong ang mga bata kung di nga maparusahan ang mga guilty na matatanda?

The meme generated mixed  reactions in and out of Facebook, mostly in my email account, from friends and acquaintances alike. The proposal at the HOR, indeed, is a divisive proposal that should be reviewed again and again.

I maintain the post/meme. This is based on the following context:

  1. We do need to eradicate, not just minimize, crimes. We should support the current administration to that effect. But will the proposed bill address this need? No scientific evidences are being offered by the proponents at this point. The only basis is the alleged ages of children caught committing the crimes mentioned. Is that scientific? Or, that is just a case of dicto simpliciter — that is, hasty generalization? Still, that begs the question: If we punish the erring children, will crime stop? Wait, how long has been RA 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees) operational? It’s been years, right? So are we corruption-free? But why are we at the near-bottom of the corruption perception index ranking 111 of 180 countries with a dismal score of 34 out of 100?
  2. We do need to protect the children as what the proponents of the legislative measure claims. We agree. But wait, have we protected them from malnutrition which not only makes their tummies ache but also their moods irritable? Last time we checked there are still government agencies that are bidding millions of pesos for meals of government officials. Oh. Sorry we should not compare children and government officials. The former are just liabilities while the latter are doing their best to serve the country and thus need nutritious and sumptous food. Right? Malnutrition is just one. should we account their right to a sufficient space? Shelter? Clothes? Education? Play time? And so on and so forth? Note: To determine that the children acted with discernment and therefore meted with the appropriate punishment, the court needs to hire psychologists. That is more expensive than a teacher, right? How many teachers do we still lack? 30,000? 81,000?
  3. We need the children to be accountable for their actions. But, are we doing the same? Are we accountable also for our actions?  Or we are just passing the buck as the government continually fail in providing our children with the proper environment for their growth and development? In the education sector, for instance, what has the government done to ensure that the children will have a conducive place to learn how to be law-abiding citizens? A ratio of one teacher for every 45 students is what the government can give? A space of 5 to 8 students per square meter? And how many classrooms still need to be constructed? 40,000? How will the children learn in those conditions? Oh. they are just small, unproductive bunch of kids. Let them settle on that as they could not yet contribute to the society. Right? Our officials deserve the space. They think and work a lot for our nation. Right?
  4. We need to maintain peace and order and security. Correct. But are we implementing the laws fairly and properly? If we are asking the children to be responsible for their actions, are we also doing the same? Last time I checked, there are guilty adults who are out of prison and dancing their ways to the bank. some even were elected in high government positions. Oh, children are stupid and are not yet eligible to hold offices. Let them linger in Bahay Pag-Asa , right? Last time I also checked there are those who were sentenced guilty of carrying illegal firearms that are still walking our streets and threatening to arrest people. Well, they are not dangerous, right? Children are more dangerous than these adults.
  5. Lastly, we need to implement a law. But we have many laws to implement. So let us be selective — something easier to do. Something that can give us media mileage. At any rate, election is drawing near and we need something for a show. Right?





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