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Bacolod City, Philippines Wednesday, January 23, 2019
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with Matè Espina


Rock & Refuge

I’d like to devote some time to this bill that was passed yesterday by the Justice Committee in the Lower House that seeks to change the minimum age of children to be charged for a crime from 15 years old to just 9 years old.

I signed a petition saying “No” to the bill at change.org in the hope that if thousands will oppose this measure, the Senate will think twice in following the moves of those in the Lower House who are clearly not thinking about the repercussions of this bill but are merely following the orders of House Speaker Gloria Arroyo who gave her nod to the bill.

Among the opinions that are now being shared actively on social media is that of lawyer Patty Arroyo, an anti-trafficking advocate and that of Foreign Affairs Sec. Teddy Boy Locsin. The latter’s thoughts will have some impact because it shows Locsin is not afraid to go against the judgment of the president who has endorsed this bill from day 1.

Locsin said this measure may cause “international condemnation” and will open the doors for “pedophiles panting anxiously for the day they can call prison guards to takeout kids for sodomy.”

Harsh but true if we take into account the miserable conditions those older kids who have been placed in supposed rehabilitation centers all over the country for committing a crime.

Patty Arroyo has a simpler explanation for the bill which every parent, aunt and uncle, grandparents, and siblings will hopefully understand and object to.

At the age of 9, a child who will hurt someone during a rough play can be charged with physical injuries; get things without permission will be theft; say something bad about another kid will be chargeable with slander; break another kid’s gadget will be malicious mischief; and hurt someone by accident will result to reckless imprudence.

Geez! These are children! Bringing them to court, their names besmirched for life and the possibility of imprisonment will scar them forever.

Worse, many of our juviecenters are in miserable conditions, not to mention the fact that a 9-year-old will not be able to defend himself against a much older child, can just be very tragic. The fact that these lawmakers cannot see this just shows how depressing our nation has become.

This coming election should really be a wake-up call for all of us and the fact that this measure is supported by the police hierarchy makes this even more dangerous because the bill allows our law enforcers to arrest a child on the spot even without a warrant if caught “after having committed a crime, is on the spot committing a crime and even while just attempting to commit a crime.”

The national PNP said their reason for backing this bill is because in the past two years alone, they have a record of over 1,300 children violating the anti-illegal drugs law.

Here we are again on the fight against drugs! Law enforcers have been playing the numbers game in presenting their accomplishments against the drug war and with children now in play, they can easily double and triple their numbers. Thousands have died, some executed summarily, yet the big fish have remained scot-free and I have stopped wondering anymore why as it has become so obvious.

Arroyo also explained that if there is an absence of a child-caring institution in the area, the child can be detained in a cell with adult prisoners – just imagine what this will do to your child!

If there is probable cause, a criminal case will be filed against your child and knowing how slow our justice system is, these may take years before a resolution can be handed down. If convicted, the child will be remanded to a rehabcenter until the court deems them reformed – when that will be, considering the amount of backlogs our courts are facing, is just scary.

At 9years old, just imagine what all of these will do to your child. By the time the courts return these kids to you, what state will they be in by then – if that is not enough to wake us up from our stupor, then this country is going nowhere but in the pits of hell.

No amount of justifying by the PNP chief that they have cases where a 10-year-old is being used as a drug runner warrants the passage of this bill. There are other causes why children are being used and among these are poverty, being ordered and scared by an adult, and simply because they do not understand at all.

This argument was stressed by UNICEF that said “a 9-year-old has not even reached the age of puberty and their brains are not developed to understand the consequences of actions,” adding further that our law even provides that entering into a marriage, signing legal contracts and be rightfully employed is set at 18-years old, how then can these lawmakers make themselves believe that a 9-year old is capable of discerning?

Simply put, jails are not for children! So do let your voices be heard and STOP this NONSENSE!*

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