CHR bucks proposal to lower minimum age of criminal responsibility

Etta Rosales, Chairwoman of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), at the red carpet of the House of Representatives in Quezon City, northeast of Manila, on 22 July 2013, where President Benigno Simeon Aquino III is set to deliver fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) before the 16th Congress. (Czeasar Dancel/NPPA Images) (NPPA Images)

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has opposed the proposal to lower the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility (MACR) from 15 years old to 13 years old.

CHR Chairman Loretta Ann Rosales said the proposal oversimplifies the nature of juvenile offending.

“It violates the fundamental principles of child protection and welfare, and ignores the available scientific knowledge and research about child development. Above all, it is against the best interest of the child,” she said.

The CHR has consistently opposed the lowering of the MACR.

Last year, Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act 2006 was signed, but the MACR remained at 15 years. Most legislators and even the President were convinced that lowering the MACR is not the solution to the problems of juvenile offending.

The CHR said time has been wasted debating on whether to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility, when the focus should be on the implementation of existing laws on juvenile offending.

“Lowering the MACR will just punish the children while remaining oblivious to the root causes of youth offending and vulnerabilities arising from the lack of a protective and caring environment brought about by failures of individuals, systems and the larger society,” Rosales said.

She cited studies showing that it is not the age that motivates a child to commit offenses but the circumstances around him.

“The direct and undeniable correlation between poverty and involvement of children in crime is evident in statistics indicating that almost 50 percent of crimes committed by children are theft or crimes against property,” she added.