Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan (SDK) strongly opposed the proposal of some legislators to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility. The current minimum age is 15 years old under the Juvenile Justice Act.  The said proposal is a mere blame game on the government’s failure to address the problem of increasing numbers of children involved in crimes.

 Violation of the Child’s Rights

Under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN-CRC), a child means every human being below the age of eighteen years of age.  The indicated age should enjoy his/her right to be free from any criminal responsibility (e.g. capital punishment, life imprisonment etc.) It is very clear that our government would be violating the said international convention of which we are a signatory if the said proposal will be adopted.

 Rehabilitation, not punishment

SDK affirm its belief that youth offenders do not deserve punishment, most of the said offenders who committed crimes belong to the poor and working class families who have longed been deprived of a decent life.  They were pushed to resort on illegal activities because they need to survive on a barbaric world of consumerism.  The real culprit on this menace is no other than the government itself, who failed to provide a real program to rehabilitate youth offenders for them to be reintegrated and assume a constructive role in our society. The proposal to lower the minimum age on criminal responsibility will only make the real culprit (the government) get out of its responsibility.  It will not solve a single problem on the issue of youth perpetrated crimes.

 They should be in schools, not in jails

Youth perpetrated crimes will be lessened or in the maximum be non-existent if the youth are enjoying their right to education. But in reality, drop-out rates in schools are increasing due to extreme poverty. Worst of all, the government continues to cut budgets in education and promotes commercialization. This is the government’s worst crime, depriving the youth of his/her right to be educated and build their capacity to live decently.

We call on the legislators to stop this non-sense blame game and focus on creating policies that will ensure our right to education and to live with dignity. Lowering the minimum age on criminal responsibility will never create a substantial solution. But ensuring our rights will definitely generate a more progressive, responsible, empowered and dignified citizens in the future.

September 15, 2011