On Monday 20 May KIYO joined a group of child rights groups, children and youth to call on the Philippine Senate not to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility.

Child Rights Groups, Children and Youth Reiterate “No to Lowering the MACR”

On May 20, as the Philippines commemorated the 13th year since the passage of the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act (JJWA), some 150 members of child rights groups led by the umbrella alliance Child Rights Network (CRN) and children and youth once again trooped to the Senate to reiterate to the legislators not to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) from 15 years old to 12.

Instead, the groups said, the state should fully implement the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act (JJWA). The JJWA was a landmark legislation and hailed internationally as a progressive measure to protect and promote the rights of children in conflict with the law. Sadly, past and present governments were not fully committed in implementing its provisions as revealed by dozens of researches, policy reviews and expert opinions.

But in other communities, the provisions in the JJWA work as shared by several community practitioners and non-government organisations. Simeon, now in his 30s and works as a service crew in a famous restaurant in Manila, said, “I am grateful that I was given a second chance to rectify myself with the help of a non-governmental organisation (NGO). I am here now unashamed to reveal that I was one of those called CICLs (children in conflict with the law). Now, I am a youth mentor because there are other children who need help.” A representative from the federation of Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC) in Navotas shared that most BCPCs in the country do not know their roles and functions, as well as the laws protecting children, particularly the juvenile justice law. “The BCPC”, he said “just send erring children to jail”. In their communities, the JJWA works, he said. Some child participants from an NGO brought their artworks to convey their sentiments against lowering the MACR.

The sweltering 33°C heat outside the Senate gate could not match the sentiments of the crowd as they chanted “No to Lowering the MACR”, “Not 9, Not 12”, “Implement JJWA” and “Defend Children’s Rights”.  With the move to institute a law that will further do harm than good to Filipino children, child rights groups, and the children and youth themselves have consistently shown that they will not waiver in their commitment to uphold the best interest of the children and oppose the lowering of the MACR.