MANILA, June 16, 2016— Plans to lower the age at which children can be prosecuted as adults could lead to “dire consequences,” a lay church leader has warned.
Rodolfo Diamante, executive secretary of the bishops’ prison ministry, said children in conflict with the law should not be treated like ordinary criminals because they are “victims who should be helped.”
“So why penalize them? The government should instead go after those using these children in criminal activities,” said Diamante.
The incoming administration of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte is considering reducing the age a person could be prosecuted as an adult from 15 to 12 years old due to the perceived escalation in youth crime.
The prison ministry official called on Duterte and his allies in Congress to rethink their stance in lowering the age of criminal responsibility.
He said several studies have already been conducted on the matter which showed that most children aged 14 and below lack capacity to discern.
In 1997, a study titled “Beyond Innocence” conducted by the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) found that the age of discernment of in-school Filipino children is 15 years old.
The Philippine Action for Youth and Offenders (PAYO), a child rights network assisting children in conflict with the law in the country, also conducted a similar research in 2002.
PAYO’s “Arrested Development” study, which targeted out-of-school Filipino youth who are the ones who figure in crimes, revealed that the age of discernment of OSY children is 18-years old.
“These studies validated that these minors don’t know what is right or wrong,” said Diamante, who had been working in the prison ministry for more than two decades now.
“They should also make decisions based on studies and not from their own observations,” he added. (CBCPNews)