PHILIPPINES: Sending 9-year-olds to jail is height of cruelty to poor
Members of Akbayan party-list together with child rights advocates today trooped to the House of Representatives to call on legislators to abandon plans to pass a proposed measure that would lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility from the current 15 to 9 years old.
"This bill misses the point -- that poor kids are often used by syndicates for their illegal activities, and children who comes into conflict with the law should be rehabilitated, not incarcerated," said Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin, a father of two teenage girls, and is opposing the bill.
"Malupit sa bulilit ang panukalang batas na ito, at mahihirap ang siguradong tatamaan na naman dahil sila ang walang kakayahang kumuha ng abogado para ipagtanggol ang sarili."
"We need to pause and seriously reflect for a moment if we are willing to sacrifice the future of our children just to feel a sense of security, just to feel safe," added Villarin. "This mindset is inhumane, and we can be better than this."
"We call on all citizens to exercise empathy, and draw the line at children," pleaded Villarin. "This bill, when taken together with the bill reviving the death penalty through hanging, lethal injection or firing squad are cruel, degrading mean-spirited measures that cheapen life and destroys our sense of community."
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"We call on the House leadership to scrap the bill and instead focus on strengthening the Juvenile Justice Act which provides humane, preventive and rehabilitative ways to give hope to children who lose their way because someone else is exploiting them," he said.
Akbayan today joins members of the Child Rights Network in lobbying legislators against the passage of HB02 which seeks to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 9, otherwise known as the Batang Bilanggo Bill (BBB).
Together with children advocates, Akbayan went room to room visiting legislators' offices to distribute holiday cards with messages coming from children themselves. These messages implored legislators not to support the BBB.
Akbayan supports CRN, the children and their families in their holiday wish for the legislature to turn its back on a patently cruel legislation that will stunt children's growth and would rather incarcerate rather than rehabilitate delinquents.
Given the current state of our justice system, jampacked jails with snail-paced courts will only mean minors who commit infractions that could otherwise be rehabilitated will instead be subjected to further risk and abuse when mixed with regular inmates.
This approach, which BBB will legalize will not solve the problem of criminality. It will only scratch the surface and allow the big time crooks and syndicates to get away with trafficking children.
BBB is only treating a symptom, rather than rooting out the poverty that lies behind the vulnerability of children to come into conflict with the law. BBB is prescribing a hammer to solve the problem of an ant, it is like pouring acid on a burn.
Akbayan calls on all legislators to turn their back on this absurd measure and focus on solving the problems that matter most: lifting poor families out of poverty so keep their children away from crimes and a life of misery.
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At no time have been our human rights, democracy and Constitutional freedoms under attack more directly than today. We must collectively resist and call for the greater protection of our democratic rights as institutions designed to uphold them are instead at the forefront of eroding these very same principles enshrined in the highest law of the land.
Underlined by thousands of unresolved, extra-judicial murders, we see the resurgence of cruel, degrading, inhumane measures that cheapen life and glorify death as a solution to the complex problems that we face as a society.
The reinstatement of the death penalty, and this time through lethal injection, firing squad or hanging -- is a gigantic step backward unheard of in a democratic society. The coverage of heinous crimes to be committed is problematic because it has moved the line farther on what infractions are defined as heinous.
The bill reinstating the death penalty is a heartless, bloodthirsty measure.
The situation becomes even more dire when this is combined with a proposed bill that seeks to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility from the current 15 to 9. Instead of rehabilitation, legislators are giving up on our children and would rather send them to jail, oblivious to the fact that children who lose their way are often victims themselves of other criminals.
These measures seeks to institutionalize cruelty and barbarism.
It is even sadder that legal remedies are now conveniently ignored, suspects, and even innocent civilians, including children, continue to die in the hands of unknown assailants and in dubious police operations.
Impunity is the rule nowadays, and cruelty is its weapon.
The poor have clearly borne the brunt of these attacks, and to add insult to injury, the biggest criminal of all had just been buried as a hero.
Akbayan demands not only a stop to the killings, but the observance of the rights of everyone to due process, to legal counsel, to a fair trial and a speedy resolution of their cases.
Akbayan demands that the Duterte government stop its violent rhetoric and desist from coddling cops who violate the laws they are sworn to uphold.
Akbayan demands that the Duterte administration exercise political will to prosecute and jail the big time crooks behind the criminality and the drug problem.
Akbayan calls on the Duterte administration to turn its back from supporting impunity by turning its back on supporting the fraudulent attempts of the Marcoses to return to power.
Akbayan joins the rest of the Philippines in its call to reject the cruelty bills on death penalty and lowering the age of criminal responsibility.
These measures, these events erode the freedoms we enjoy today and which we spent decades fighting for. They should not and will not be dismantled by the obsession of one man. We must collectively express our outrage and demand for genuine change. ###
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