Every child has a mindset, has a will of their own and has the ability to choose what’s right and what’s wrong. Each and every one of us, every individual is a person of rationality. Before we make a decision we undergo a rational process. Whatever the factors have influenced our choices, we are still the one who made those choices. Therefore, we must be accountable for these decisions. With quite a number of children in conflict with the law in the Philippines, the proposed lowering of the age of criminal liability from 15 to 12 years old has caused quite a stir among the different sectors of society.
Various organizations firmly believed that a 12-year-old is not mature enough to make decisions. However, there is a misconception on how Filipinos see the bill. The bill states that the child conflicted with the law will not immediately be jailed, but will be under an intervention program wherein they will be moved to a rehabilitation facility called Bahay Pag-asa. According to the bill, children who have reached the age of criminal liability will not be automatically charged with a crime. If the child did not act with discernment, he or she will be released. However, if a report says he or she acted with discernment that will be the only time that he can be charged. Only the children who committed serious crimes such as murder, rape, or violation of illegal drugs will be sentenced. In addition, children in conflict with the law who will be formally charged in court sentence are suspended until they reach 18 and will be sent to Youth Homes such as the Nat.
If the CICLs reach 18, he or she may be sent to jail or may not if he or she did well while serving his or her sentence. The CICLs will be released and his or her record will remain private. Parents should not be accountable for what their children commit. Crimes of the children have nothing to do with their parents – unless the parents are condoning, encouraging or taking part in the crime; then, and only then, should parents be held responsible for their children’s crimes. It is rarely the parent’s fault, even if they do teach their children right from wrong. Nevertheless, if an adult or a parent is involved, they will also be accountable for the crime. According to the last hearing, parents will also go under a mandatory intervention program. If they don’t attend they will be in prison for 30 days or six months. Several Asian countries lowered the age of criminal liability to seven years old. This shows that some countries have their reason for this implementation and our country also has the reason the lower the age of criminal responsibility.
The Philippines must be ready from these changes. When will the country be ready? That is the reason why the country must start implementing this bill. Critics disapprove the implementation of the K-12 program because the country is not ready. But as we can see it right now, the implementation may not be perfect but we are continuously adjusting to it. Crimes are still crimes regardless of age. Vice, Violence, and influence– children that were thought to be innocent became prone to these conditions. Conditions where they have made use to these things. Wrought to create bad deeds. Dr. Jose Rizal once said, “Kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan.” But with the different issues the contemporary world is facing right now, do you still believe in that quote or do you manage to neglect the underlying meaning?