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Help, don’t punish: Robredo, CHR rap House move vs juvenile offenders

MANILA — Authorities should help instead of punishing children in conflict with the law, Vice President Leni Robredo and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said Sunday amid a fresh move to lower the age of criminal liability. 

President Rodrigo Duterte has cited the rising cases of minors involved in crimes as he repeatedly batted to bring down the age of criminal liability from the current 15. 

His ally, House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, will move for the passage of a bill seeking 9 as the age of criminal liability. The measure will be tackled by the House justice committee this week, her office said. 

“Napakasakit sa dibdib niyan (that is heart-wrenching),” Robredo said of the measure in her weekly radio show.

Lawmakers, she said, should strengthen support programs for juvenile delinquents instead of punishing them. 

“Maawa naman po tayo sa ating mga kabataan. Imbes na parusahan natin sila, tulungan natin — tulungan natin na makapag-bagong buhay,” she said. 

(Let’s have mercy towards our youth. Instead of punishing them, let’s help them change their ways.) 

CHR, meanwhile, urged authorities to focus on the implementation of the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act, particularly the allocation of funds for facilities and experts that can rehabilitate youth offenders.

“Bilang mga bata, sila ay dumadaan pa lamang sa pinakamahalagang parte ng kanilang mga buhay. Kailangan nila ang pagkalinga at tamang paggabay na inaahasan mula sa kanilang mga magulang at mga kapamilya; sa kanilang komunidad na kinabibilangan; at maging sa pamahalaan,” said CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia. 

(As children, they still going through the most important part of their lives. They need care and proper guidance that should be expected from their parents and families, their communities and even the government.) 

“Para sa mga nagkamali, responsibilidad ng gobyerno na sila’y tulungan makabalik sa tama, sa halip na magpatupad ng panukalang magpapahamak at maglilihis sa kanila sa tamang landas,” she added. 

(For those who have erred, it is the responsibility of the government to help them reform, instead of implementing proposals that will endanger and divert them away from the right path.)

Senate President Vicente Sotto III last year filed a bill seeking to lower the age of criminal responsibility to 13 “to adapt to changing times.”