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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, January 25, 2019
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Come To Think Of It
with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia

Kids do the Darndest Things


Anyone who has seen that show is either as old as me, or probably has kids that are now old enough to be labelled and treated as criminals if our so-called representatives and legislators succeed in their bid to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility in this country.

It is not clear if our politicos have nothing better to do with their legislative agenda so they picked on the kids. After all, a supposedly up and coming country should need betters laws and lawmakers to give its people the final boost they need to get their beloved nation out of the rut it’s been stuck in for decades. But it looks like our lawmakers are pushing this law to please their dear leader whose extreme focus on crime and criminality has unsurprisingly targeted the country’s children after he failed to fulfill his bombastic promise of delivering us from the evil within 3-6 months.

One of the more common arguments the proponents and supporters of this bill are using as they try to justify pushing the age of criminal responsibility back to 9 or 12 years old from 15, is that criminal syndicates and drug lords are using kids to do their dirty work. The way these people think, they are doing the nation’s kids a favor because apparently, criminal gangs will magically stop using young children if the MACR is lowered.

Instead of empowering our law enforcement units with the ability to go after the criminal gangs that use children or making the penalties for using children in criminal activity stiffer, they opted to take the lazy and stupid route instead: leave the criminals alone but target the kids and lower the MACR from 15 to 9 years old. This kind of mentality makes one wonder if the members of our House of Representatives truly represent the desires and concerns of the general population or if they are there to kowtow to the whims and depravity of whoever is in power, holds the biggest intelligence funds, controls the purse strings, and allows billions in shady budget insertions.

The Philippines has one of the worst penal systems in the world. There are photos that show just how crowded our jails are. Unless you are a powerful Senator accused of plunder, or an ex-president who needs a neck brace whenever she is placed under hospital arrest, anyone who is found criminally responsible will literally rot in a Philippine jail.

So our legislators, at the behest of the executive, and with the blind eye of the judiciary, want to make 9 year olds criminally liable. 9 or 12 it doesn’t matter because at those ages children are still children. They cannot drink alcohol, drive, own a business, vote, sign a contract or get married, but our government wants to be able to make them criminals with the passage of a law.

It’s so easy. Because they had the marching orders and the numbers, all they had to do was change the 15 to 9 in the old law and then change the words “criminal responsibility” to “social responsibility” to soften the language. They could’ve set up a system, the infrastructure and appropriated the budget for our justice and penal system to accommodate and reform the children that come in conflict with the law but that would be too much work. So their staff probably did a bit of find and replace on their word processors and then passed the new bill around for our representatives to sign. If there’s one thing the passage of that tax reform bill has shown us, these people who are supposed to look after our interests will sign anything. They’ll just try to take it back after realizing they didn’t really understand what the impact of their signature was on their voters who will bear the brunt of whatever burden they hoist upon us. If the shit hits the fan, they’ll simply say their signature,that ultimately led to the passage of a law that turned out to do more harm than good,was “a critical yes bordering on a no.”

Our government is determined to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility. Like every good negotiator or haggler, they probably targeted 9 to gauge the outrage but their true target is probably 12. Either way, they want it lower than the current 15 years old and the way I see it, they are going to succeed.

They will go ahead and lower the MACR even if the country’s jails and penal system is thoroughly not ready to accept children as criminals. Heck, it can hardly even accommodate and rehabilitate adults. Have our representatives ever been to a real jail? When I say a real one, it is nowhere near the VIP accommodations their idols Bong Revilla, Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo spent their time in for their supposedly non-bailable crimes. Those jails our politicos probably visited when they still existed, but that type VIP jails no longer exist after this administration that is supposedly anti-corruption, not only set those people free, its political party is even endorsing their candidacies as they make another run for our money.

No nation wants children to become criminals. In order to do that, most nations improve their educational system, provide more jobs for the parents, strive to keep inflation in control, or develop a justice system that works. Here in the Philippines, the solution our geniuses at government have come up is to lower the MACR and rename it to MASR. Other than that, nothing will have changed and it is up to the nation’s parents to do what needs to be done to prevent their kids from being thrown into a Filipino jail where whatever hope for any kid’s future will most likely be lost forever.

Indeed, kids do the darndest things. When they do it, it’s often funny and only very rarely criminal. Even when they’re 12 years old.

However, recent events have shown that adults also do the darndest things. The difference is when they do, it’s often not funny. What’s worse is when the adults involved are responsible for the laws of a nation, the things they do can even damn poor and unfortunate kids to a life of hell. That is no joke and nowhere near funny.*  

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