MANILA, Philippines – The United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is not convinced by the proposal to lower the age of criminal liability to 12 years old in the Philippines, as suggested by Senate President Vicente Sotto III.
According to Lotta Sylwander, UNICEF’s Representative to the Philippines, a 12-year-old is so young to be held liable for a criminal act citing that “the human brain is not yet fully developed until the age of 16.”
“Sixteen (16) or below 16 and you commit a crime you’re not always aware as a child of the consequences that can happen and subjecting children to the kind of violence as killing them for example is really not fair to that child they’re never been given a second chance,” she explained.
UNICEF Philippines Country Representative Ms. Lotta Sylwander | Photo via UNICEF.org
She added that punishing children at a tender age will not help in their reformation as they will just be branded as criminal for the rest of their lives.
“Keep the children out of the criminal justice system so that they can be reformed and brought back in the community as children,” she explained further.
Sylwander cited a study on reformative justice system which is proven to help prevent children from returning to their criminal practices.
The study, Sylwander said, states that reformative justice system convinces them to return to their family and to continue their education.
Meanwhile, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) also opposes the said proposal despite the increasing number of crimes involving minors.
“We at the DSWD stands with not lowering the age of criminality because technically the definition for children is below 18 years old,” said ASec. Glenda Relova.
Relova said they will most likely support the proposal if there are scientific observation and researches that will prove its benefits.
Currently, the law sets the age of criminal liability to 15 years old based in the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act of 2006. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Cathy Maglalang)