Senator Richard Gordon Saturday night said the bill to reduce the age of criminal responsibility is vastly misunderstood because simplification appears to be the name of the game.
Gordon said he is coming out with a draft Child Welfare Bill tomorrow designed to address the gaps and weaknesses in existing laws.
He told the DAILY STAR that determining the minimum age of criminal responsibility is just the tip of the iceberg, it is not about locking children in jail.
“There must be a holistic approach to nation building. The whole system must show that we care about children,” he said.
“We will recommend 12 as the minimum age of criminal responsibility,” Gordon said, but “there is a need to also overhaul the entire social infrastructure, or children of any age will be at risk.”
“We must not wait for the children to be in conflict with the law,” he said.
“The philosophy is to protect the child, every child is important, nobody should be left behind,” he said.
Among Godon’s proposals is to designate Barangay Kagawads as truancy officers to check households with children to monitor whether children go to school regularly.
If the children do not go to school, their parents will be held criminally liable under his proposed bill, Gordon said.
He will also push for the hiring of more proactive guidance counselors, as well as career guidance officers.
Gordon is proposing one guidance counselor for every 2 year level. He said that, according to DepEd, there are 3,500 available slots for guidance counselors in public schools, but only 1,300 positions are filled.
There are only 3,220 registered guidance counselors in the country, which means that even if all of them join public schools, they still won’t be enough, he added.
Gordon also stressed the need to create more Bahay Pag-Asas. There should be 1,000 BahayPag-Asas across the county, he said.
Currently there are only 63 BahayPag-asa’s nationwide of which only 58 are operational, he added.
Under his proposed bill, the senator is also pushing for the creation of functional and first-rate sports and recreational centers, higher penalties for persons who exploit children to commit crimes, a massive information campaign on the rights of children, and a foster parent program.
There should also be a child witness protection program to prosecute and punish those who exploit children to commit crimes, and a review of the law, at least every five years, Gordon said.*
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