Official Publication of the Philippine Information Agency Bicol Regional Office, in cooperation with the RIAC-REDIRAS - RDC Bicol

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

BNC, JJWC, DSWD hold youth meet vs. lowered MACR

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 29 (PIA) – To culminate the celebration of this year’s National Children’s Month, the Bicol Network for Children (BNC), in cooperation with the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council (JJWC) and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) of the Bicol region held the #KalingaHindiKulungan Bicol Youth Meet at Legazpi City.

The main purpose of the event is to show solidarity against the lowering of the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR), as proposed by House Bill 02 which was filed in the 17th Congress of the Republic of the Philippines. According to children rights advocates, making the minors vulnerable to mature criminal punishments, specifically imprisonment, would only expose them to greater criminal influence.

“We do not believe that imprisoning children would lower down the country’s crime rate. Instead, it would be like enrolling children to higher levels of criminality, because of influences they may acquire while inside jails,” said Ms. Victoria Tagum, assistant regional director of DSWD-Bicol.

House Bill 02, also titled as “Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility Act”, was authored and filed by representatives Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez of Davao del Norte and Fredinil Castro of Capiz. The bill seeks to amend Republic Act 9344 or the “Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006”, reducing the MACR from 15 years old to 9 years old.

According to the authors, the bill’s objective is to eliminate criminal activities which use children as accomplices, like drug trafficking. In their explanatory note, the solons argue that, while the protection of children is laudable, the effect is opposite as youth offenders commit crime knowing that they can get away with it.

On the other hand, DSWD and other child welfare organization expressed their strong opposition on the matter. They argue that those within the age of minority cannot yet fully discern what is right from wrong, and their disposition lies with their environment and parental responsibility.

“Imprisoning children is not the solution to criminality. Statistics show that there are drastically more adult offenders than there are children. The solution is intervention, not imprisonment,” argues Tagum.

Since the introduction of the bill this September, DSWD has been open with their disagreement in the lowering of the MACR. During the meet in Legazpi City, DSWD showcased the details and effectiveness of the intervention programs which are already being used throughout the country.

According to DSWD, programs are already being utilized for children in conflict with the law (CICLs) with a wholistic approach, including social, spiritual, and skills development.

In cooperation with concerned agencies like the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), CICLs are given skills training like carpentry, landscaping, and handicrafts while being house in juvenile institutions, so that they may have the ability to be productive citizens after their rehabilitation.

CICLs were also given guidance seminars while being housed at social welfare facilities, while being attended by ‘house parents’.To show how the intervention programs would work, testimonial talks from ‘Arman’, a former CICL, was included in the youth meet in Legazpi.

According to Arman, due to unbearable poverty and lack of parental guidance, he was compelled to commit theft at a very tender age. However, after being given the care and attention by his house parent while serving his time in a juvenile institution, he is now a changed person who shares his story of inspiration.

“(CICLs) do not need to be punished severely in order to change. All we need are people who care to make us realize that we have a chance to change,” said Arman. (MAL/JBE-PIA5)

- See more at: http://news.pia.gov.ph/article/view/3301480400491/bnc-jjwc-dswd-hold-youth-meet-vs-lowered-macr#sthash.HsA90C5d.dpuf

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