MANILA - Plan International stands against moves in the Philippine Congress to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 9 years of age, and instead advocates for the government to fully implement a juvenile justice law that focuses on prevention, education, and rehabilitation.
Plan International and other organizations in the Philippines launched the campaign, #ChildrenNotCriminals, which urges lawmakers to reconsider proposed legislations that seek to lower the age of criminal liability and rather increase investment on prevention and community-based diversion at the local level.
Based on national data, almost 98% of all reported crimes in the Philippines are committed by adults. “Why target children?” the campaign asks.
“Data shows us that almost 50% of reported crimes involving children are crimes like theft, which is often linked to poverty. Instead of punishing children as adults, we must address the root causes that drive children to commit these crimes, and focus on community-based prevention and rehabilitation,” explains Ernesto Almocera, Plan International Philippines Communications and Advocacy Manager.
Under the Children Not Criminals campaign, Plan International and partners are urging the government of the Philippines to consider alternative options, including strengthening the implementation of the existing Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, which puts rehabilitation as its primary goal.
As of September 2016, only 35 of the 114 youth care facilities mandated by the law are operational, according to government data. “The problem is not the age but the weak implementation of the law,” says Almocera.
Child rights organizations fear that with the proposal to lower the age of criminal responsibility, more children will end up in detention facilities with adult criminals due to lack of youth care centers and the limited capacity of duty-bearers.
“We cannot hold young children to the same standards as adults. Detention pending trial, punishment, and conviction can have lasting traumatic and emotional effects on a child,” explains Almocera. “Children who are in conflict with the law must be educated on the consequences of their behavior through diversion and positive discipline, not through harsh, criminal punishment that increases chances for them to be hardened criminals.”
The second hearing for plenary debates is set on Monday, November 21. Proponents of the bill aim to approve the bill at the House of Representatives before the Congressional recess by mid-December.
A joint position paper is available here: http://mediabank.plan-international.org/?r=123448&k=9b4eef02c9.
NOTE TO EDITORS: Spokespersons from Plan International in the Philippines are available for comment and media requests.
About Plan International Philippines
Working in the Philippines since 1961, Plan International helps children to realize their rights to health care, education, protection, and a high quality of life. Plan International Philippines now works in over 400 villages within 30 municipalities in Masbate, Occidental Mindoro, Northern Samar, Eastern Samar, Western Samar, and Southern Leyte.
About Plan International USA
Plan International USA, part of the Plan International Federation, is a child-centered development organization that believes in the promise and potential of children. For more than 75 years in over 50 developing countries, Plan has been breaking the cycle of child poverty. Everything Plan does – from strengthening health care systems to improving the quality of education, to advocating for increased protection and beyond – is built with, and owned by, the community. The result is a development approach designed to improve the lives of the youngest members of the community for the longest period of time. For more information, please visit http://www.PlanUSA.org.