*Statement of the Kalipunan ng Mga Kristiyanong Kabataan sa Pilipinas on the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility Bill on Thursday, Mar. 30
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew19:14, NIV)
The Kalipunan ng Kristiyanong Kabataan sa Pilipinas, an aggrupation of Protestant and non-Roman youth organizations strongly opposes the proposed legislation that lowers the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 years old to 9 years old. The House Bill 002 as proposed by House Representative Pantaleon Alvarez is a direct affront to the future of this nation. Passing this law means the criminalization of our children. It means endangering the welfare of the next generation to come.
In a nation where almost 33 per cent of its population are children (as of July 2016), and whom we consider the most vulnerable of all sectors, lowering the criminal liability is just abominable. This manifests the abandonment of our leaders from its direct responsibility over its children and threatens the very wellbeing of this nation’s pillars and prime movers in the future.
Children in conflict with the law must be dealt in the current context of our society. In our country, majority of our children have limited access to basic needs that are vital for their growth and development. Their deprivation of education, food, good housing and safe communities, make many children highly vulnerable to anti-social activities. Lowering of criminal responsibility from 15 to 9 is in no way helpful in solving the increasing crime rates of the country. It rather exposes loopholes in the justice system especially when the law does not put primacy on the needs and the welfare of the people. This anti-poor and anti-children law puts our children at risk and marginalizes them even more. Children should be provided of health care, education, housing, and a caring community.
Lowering the criminal age posts detrimental effects to our children. Criminalizing children, and keeping them in jails create a long lasting damaging impacts effects on them, psychologically, and physically, harming their overall development that can stand throughout adulthood. Thus, creating stigma that can further damage the child instead of helping them grow and maximize their potentials, and be instrumental in nation building.
The Philippines is also a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Children which means that the state has an international obligation of protecting the rights of children ensuring that children must be treated with a high sense of dignity and self-worth.
As a nation, we must create a more just society catered to the most vulnerable—and that is our children, because protecting our children, means ensuring a future with hope.
The KKKP believes that the children are the future. As a caring Christian community, we see our little sisters and brothers as gifts of God, meant to be loved, honed and taken care of. We are the Youth of today and we are one in protecting the rights of our Children, for we know, that protecting our children means ensuring and paving way to a better, stronger nation.