Let Peace Based on Justice Reign in Our Land!

A Statement In Support of the 3rd Round of GRP-NDFP Formal Peace Talks The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP)* enjoins the Filipino people and the international community to support the forthcoming third round of formal peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National…

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Lowering the Age of Criminal Liability: What to Be Considered?

creative commons photo

Posted by: Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
Posted on: July 22, 2016, 6:19 pm
Updated on: September 12, 2016, 3:28 pm

AMONG THE first bills filed in the House of Representatives of the 17th Congress was House Bill No. 002 of Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez and Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro to lower the age of criminal liability from 15 to nine. The measure, according to Alvarez and Castro, will deter children from committing crimes. They argue that the current law has “pampered youth offenders who commit crimes” because “they know they can get away with it.”

Several groups, including legislators and children’s rights advocates, oppose the proposal. Senator Francis Pangilinan, author of RA 9344, or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, said the government should not hastily implement laws that may affect the future of children who may simply be lost and confused. Alvarez, on the other hand, maintained that the bill would focus on rehabilitating children in conflict with the law.

Juvenile Justice in the Philippines

Prior to the passage of RA 9344, the Revised Penal Code exempted only those under nine years of age from criminal liability. RA 9344 raised the age of criminal liability to 15. Those above 15 but below 18 years old are also exempted from criminal prosecution but are subject to rehabilitation programs, unless they are proven to be fully conscious of their acts and therefore subject to appropriate proceedings.

In 2013, RA 10630, “An Act Strengthening the Juvenile Justice System in the Philippines,” amended RA 9344, transferring the administration of the Juvenile Justice Welfare Council and the implementation of the Act from the Department of Justice to the Department of Social Welfare and Development.  Moreover, RA 10630 mandates local government units to establish child-care institutions called Bahay Pag-asa which should provide short-term residential care for “children in conflict with the law,” who are above age 15 and below 18.

Alvarez and Castro’s HB 002 would restore the minimum age of criminal liability to nine. Should this be passed, it will allow courts to convict minors involved in crimes aged nine to 18 if they are found to have full discernment at the time of the offense.

International Standards

Congress should consider legal as well as other implications that should be considered before passing the bill.

For one, reverting to the former minimum age of criminal liability would conflict with international standards. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) of 1989, which the Philippines signed and ratified, defines a child as a person below the age of 18.  As a state party to the convention, the Philippines is obligated to increase the level of protection for individuals under 18.

Other treaties on juvenile welfare to which the Philippines is a signatory include:

  • The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice, known as the “Beijing Rules,” which states that the minimum age of criminal responsibility “should not be fixed at too low an age level” in consideration of the emotional, mental, and intellectual maturity of the children.
  • The United Nations Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency, known as the “Riyadh Guidelines,” which puts a primer on prevention and rehabilitation of children in conflict with the law over punishment.

Death Penalty for Minors?

Some fear that passing a bill lowering the age of criminal liability along with a bill seeking to reinstate death penalty (House Bill No. 001, which Alvarez and Castro also authored) might lead to circumstances which would make the possible the execution of children as young as nine.

Article 37 (a) of the UNCRC states that children should not be subjected to capital punishment nor life imprisonment without the possibility of release. This provision is also cited in Article 2 (b) of RA 9344.

Moreover, Section 59 of RA 9344 states that minors should be exempted from death penalty, notwithstanding provisions from other laws. While HB 002 on lowering criminal liability seeks to amend RA 9344, it will only amend Section 6 of the law, relating to the minimum age of criminal responsibility. Unless Section 59 of RA 9344 is amended as well, executing a child would be improbable.

The Bigger Picture

Lowering the age of criminal liability would be disadvantageous to the poor. Given the current state of the justice system in the country, the bill risks victimizing the poor, among whom most offending minors come from primarily because of need. These families’ means barely cover their needs, let alone hiring a lawyer. While poverty is not an excuse to commit crime, there ought to be a clear distinction between making the children responsible for their acts and criminalizing them.

There is a bigger picture surrounding juvenile crime which is usually left out of the discourse. The problem of children in conflict with the law is deeply rooted in the social ills of the country—increasing inequality paired with decreasing support for social services such as healthcare and education. These problems will require more holistic and nuanced solutions rather than simply lowering the age of criminal liability.

Prayer-dance, grand processions mark Feast of Sto. Niño

PIT SEñOR. Devotees young and old raise images of the young Jesus to be blessed with holy water, shortly after an early morning eucharistic celebration in honor of the Feast day of Senor Santo Niño at the Sto. Niño parish church in Moriones,Tondo, Manila. EY ACASIO. Manila Standard photo.

Published January 15, 2017, 12:10 AM by Manila Bulletin

by Christina I. Hermoso and Mars W. Mosqueda, Jr.

Devotees to the Santo Niño from different parts of the country celebrate today the Feast of the Child Jesus, which is traditionally marked with festive rites and grand processions.

In Manila, 33 fiesta masses will be celebrated at the Sto. Niño de Tondo Parish that started at 3 p.m. yesterday until 11 p.m. today. The “Lakbayaw” Festival, the highlight of the annual feast in Tondo was held at 8 a.m. yesterday while the grand procession will be held at 4 a.m. today.

In Pandacan, Manila, the “Buling-Buling” Festival in honor of the Santo Niño will be marked by masses at 5 and 6 a.m. and thereafter an hourly mass from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Santo Niño Parish. Two masses will be celebrated at 7 a.m. – at the church and at the plaza which is called the ati-atihan mass. A grand procession will be held at 7 tonight.

Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada thanked the Santo Niño for all the blessing and guidance the city and its residents have been receiving.


In Cebu City, the widely popular “Sinulog” (dance prayer) in honor of Senor Santo Niño, the oldest festival in the archipelago, is expected to gather around a million devotees of the Holy Child. Cebuanos do not consider the Christmas season over until after the celebration of the festive “Sinulog” which attracts local and foreign tourists.

“Sinulog”, from the Cebuano adverb “sulog” means “like water current movement” depicts the forward-backward dance movement to the beat of drums resembling the current of what was then known as the Pahina River of Cebu.

The heart of the “Sinulog” is the locals’ centuries-old devotion to the Holy Child, whose miraculous image is greeted with cries of “Viva Senor Santo Niño!” “Hail to the Child King!” and “Pit Senor!” from the phrase “Sangpit sa Senyor” (Call to Senor).


Despite the drizzle and the threat of bad weather, the annual fluvial procession proceeded smoothly yesterday morning.  More than 100 vessels joined the fluvial parade while thousands of devotees lined up the port area of Cebu City to witness the much-awaited religious activity.

Security was tight at Pier 1 as devotees waited for the arrival of the vessel – a replica of the galleon that Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan commanded, carrying the image of the Sto. Niño and the Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said they registered 60 vessels for the fluvial procession but more than 100 vessels, including small bancas, joined the parade that started at Ouano Wharf in Mandaue City and ended at Pier 1.

There was a heavy downpour of rain early dawn Saturday but the rain turned into a slight drizzle as the fluvial procession started at 7 a.m.

“The Sto. Niño wants us to be here so he stopped the rain,” 49-year-old Rosario Lapitan, a devotee at Pier 1 said.

The images of the Sto. Niño and Our Lady of Guadalupe were paraded towards the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño where the first baptism in 1521 was reenacted.


Telecom companies shut down mobile phone service as early as 4 am yesterday and will remain shut until the end of the Sinulog Festival tonight.  At least 27 barangays in Metro Cebu were affected by the shutdown:  Sto. Niño, San Roque, Tinago, T. Padilla, Tejero, San Miguel, Carreta, Lorega, Zapatera, Sambag 1, Sambag 2, Sta. Cruz, Cogon-Ramos, San Antonio, Kamagayan, Kalubihan, Parian, Kamputhaw, Hipodromo, Capitol Site, parts of barangays Looc and Centro in Mandaue City, parts of barangays Poblacion and Pajo in Lapu-Lapu City, Day-as, and San Nicolas.

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) also declared the three nautical mile-radius from the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño a no-fly zone for unmanned drones.


The Cebuanos’ devotion to the Child Jesus has deep historical roots. The image of the Holy Child was brought to the country by Magellan on April 14, 1521 as a gift to Queen Juana of Cebu, who was reportedly moved to tears after she saw the 15-inch tall wooden statue of the Santo Niño. She allowed herself to be baptized as a Christian, along with her husband Rajah Humabon and more than 800 natives. After Magellan was killed by Lapu-Lapu in the Battle of Mactan, not much was heard about the image, except that the Cebuanos worshipped the Santo Niño as a ‘rain god’.

In 1565, when Spanish conqueror Miguel Lopez de Legazpi arrived in Cebu, a Spanish soldier, Juan Camus, found the image inside the house of a native. His house was razed by a fire that miraculously spared the holy image.  Legazpi then named Cebu as the City of the Most Holy Name of Jesus.

Today, the image now known as Santo Niño de Cebu, is considered the oldest Christian relic in the country. It is enshrined and venerated at the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, the oldest church in the country. Largely a religious celebration and a thanksgiving festival, the street dancing that we know today had its beginnings with the traditional “sinulog,” a prayer dance that was offered to the Holy Child on its feast day every third Sunday of January. Then a small celebration within the vicinity of the basilica, the carnival-like celebration soon became a major tourist event in Cebu.

OTHER REGIONS  Continue reading

There is no such thing as “responsible mining”


Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) recognizes the accomplishments of the Duterte administration as it completed its first 6 months in office. Particularly on the environment sector, reforms that were introduced by President Duterte and DENR Sec. Gina Lopez are unprecedented. Suspension of ten mining companies that were violating environmental laws and the conduct of mining audits to 41 large-scale mining projects were necessary interventions to check the destruction of natural resources and protect the lives and livelihoods of mining-affected communities. We also commend the effort to review the more than 800 environmental compliance certificates (ECCs) of environmentally-critical projects. Mobilizing the communities and civil society by holding environmental summits and activating a CSO desk and a Peoples Day are also excellent initiatives by the DENR. The issuance of guidelines for access to information (or freedom of information) in the department are very much welcome developments.

However, for genuine social justice to be served in the environment sector, President Duterte and Sec. Gina Lopez must focus on several tracks that can be highlighted in the Philippine Development Plan (PDP):

First, reforms in the DENR must be fast-tracked in order to check corruption. The personnel and organizational structure must be revamped in a manner that is time-conscious. The final mining audit reports and decisions must be released as soon as possible, and those mining projects that are found to be non-compliant must be suspended immediately. We also recommend that an audit of the National Greening Program (NGP) be conducted and validate the claims of reforestation and tree-planting initiatives that will be given substantial investments in the next five years. We strongly support the continuance of implementing the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) in the Philippines to ensure that mining companies are faithful to their obligations. We are specifically concerned that Sec. Lopez has been by-passed by the Commission of Appointments twice already. Our call to President Duterte is to stand-by Sec. Lopez as she pursues her crusade for environmental and social justice and re-appoint her until she is confirmed.

Second, we remind President Duterte that the concept of “responsible mining” is a myth. There is no legal definition of responsible mining, and the best practice of mining companies on CSR fall way below the standards of sustainable development. The DENR must be able to implement its conservation mandate by cancelling mining projects that are encroaching into protected areas and “no-go zones” – fragile island-ecosystems, prime agricultural lands, eco-tourism sites and in ancestral domains of indigenous peoples, especially those projects that failed to secure free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of IPs. To this end, we recommend that the President and Sec. Lopez endorse the passage of a new mining law that best approximates “responsible mining” and this is the Alternative Minerals Management Bill (AMMB) now filed in the 17th Congress.

Third, we are in solidarity with the growing serious concern of environmental and human rights groups on the scale of extra-judicial killings under the War on Drugs. We do not question the intent of the President to address the drug-problem. We are concerned that the poor and powerless have been the majority of victims of violence and killings and the increasing cases of “collateral damage” and innocent victims as well.  The resistance and struggle against destructive large-scale mining was based on the principle of asserting and claiming fundamental human rights of mining-affected communities. We stand firmly on the position that defending human rights and stopping the killings are necessary ingredients for genuine social justice that President Duterte and Sec. Lopez have promised.

2017: Overcoming challenges towards forging genuine national development

Agham National | Bulatlat.com | January 7, 2017

When Rodrigo Duterte became president in mid-2016, many were confident that he would bring about genuine change in the country. Included in these hopefuls are the science and technology community, positive that his administration would cease the passive path on tackling scientific development treaded on by previous presidents, and instead undergo a track that will lead to dynamic scientific and technological advancement.

Together with the alliance Scientists for Change, AGHAM Advocates of Science and Technology for the People posed demands to President Duterte at the start of his term to develop the country’s science and technology sector as an essential element for national development and progress.

The president’s positive pronouncements sparked optimism among the ranks of the science and technology sector. One of which is his declaration of support for the revival of the steel industry, recognizing it as an essential ingredient in industrialization. The P1.1B budget for the household electrification in off-grid areas was also a speck of light for the communities in remote areas.

Another promise that a lot of people are looking forward to is his call to end contractualization which also affects science and technology workers. He also announced an increase in the budget for research and development that focuses on critical areas of study such as climate change, renewable energy, and food, and passed critical guidelines on the influx of GMO products.

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Thou Shall Not Kill (Exodus 20,13)

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care
of Migrants and Itinerant People

Pastoral Statement On Extra Judicial Killings

This survey shows that the issue of Extra Judicial Killings should be one that the present administration should addressed. It is a bothersome and worrying issue because lives are being taken without regard to the law. That is, violent and lawless people are taking matters into their own hands and this is something that a nation that functions under a rule of law should regard as totally unacceptable.

There must be a determined effort by the government to investigate these crimes and likewise bring the perpetrators to justice or our country could descend into chaos, and lives taken willy-nilly. It should put a stop to EJKs.

The “war on drugs” should be examined, evaluated so that it would not go beyond the parameters of the law and not be considered as a blanket endorsement or encouragement of the murder of purported criminals.

Thou Shalt Not Kill is a commandment of God because life is a gift from Him and is surrendered to Him according to His divine plan. Those who take life away have blood on their hands and would answer to divine retribution.

A society that relies on murder to keep order will never have complete, lasting peace. It will only be a society of fear; a society paralyzed and numbed by rampant occasions of murder. It will be a society without a conscience.

+Ruperto C. Santos

Bishop of Balanga
and CBCP ECMI Chair

Respect for Life and Human Dignity

Father Shay Cullen, mssc 

6 January 2017

Bennie had a thin, hollow face, the picture of malnutrition at 22 years of age, he had never been to school for more than a few months, could not read or write and he was a one-meal man. He ate once a day. He was dressed in shorts and a dirty t-Shirt. His flip-flops were worn thin. They were his only possessions. He pushed a small wooden cart along the back streets of Manila picking up discarded plastic bottles, bits of metal that fell off a jeepney or a truck. He was a discarded piece of humanity himself.

On a lucky day in a garbage bin outside the gate of a mansion, he found an old computer keyboard. Finds like these were the treasures of his long walk. That was a big day for him and he sold it at the junk shop with the other bits and pieces he picked up. He joined his fellow scavangers and together they cooked what they  found in the garbage -a plate of pagpag and a little rice. Pagpag is made from the throwaway leftovers from the plates of the diners that ended up in the restaurant’s garbage bags in the back alleyways. It is retrieved by the very poor and boiled in a big pot on the side of the road. It made an excellent meal– for the hungry poor.  Continue reading

Wednesday General Audience: On Weeping & Hope

‘The tears generated hope. And this is not easy to understand, but it is true’

January 4, 2017 | Zenit Staff | General Audience

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

In today’s catechesis I would like to contemplate with you the figure of a woman who speaks to us of hope lived in weeping – hope lived in weeping. It is Rachel, wife of Jacob and mother of Joseph and Benjamin, she that, as the Book of Genesis recounts, died in giving birth to her second-born, namely, Benjamin.

The prophet Jeremiah makes reference to Rachel when addressing the Israelites in exile to console them, with words full of emotion and poetry; namely, he takes up Rachel’s weeping but gives hope:

Thus says the Lord: “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are not” (Jeremiah 31:15). In these verses, Jeremiah presents this woman of his people, the great matriarch of his tribe, in a reality of sorrow and weeping, but at the same time with a prospect of unimaginable life. Rachel, who in the Genesis account died giving birth and assumed that death so that her son could live now, instead, is represented by the prophet as alive at Ramah, there where the deported gathered, weeping for her children who in a certain sense are dead by going into exile; children that, as she herself says, “are not,” have gone for ever.

And, because of this, Rachel does not want to be consoled. Her refusal expresses the depth of her sorrow and the bitterness of her weeping. In face of the tragedy of the loss of children, a mother is unable to accept words or gestures of consolation, which are always inadequate, but capable of soothing the pain of a wound that cannot and will not be healed — a sorrow proportionate to the love.

Every mother knows all this; and there are so many mothers, also today, who weep, who are not resigned to the loss of a child, inconsolable in face of a death that is impossible to accept. Rachel encloses in herself the sorrow of all the mothers of the world, of all times, and the tears of every human being who weeps for irreparable losses.

This refusal of Rachel, who does not want to be consoled, teaches us also how much delicacy is required in face of others’ sorrow. To speak of hope to one who is desperate requires sharing his despair, to dry a tear from the face of one who is suffering requires uniting our sorrow to his. Only thus will our words be really capable of giving some hope. And if I cannot say such words — weeping, sorrowing, then silence is better — a caress, a gesture and no words.

And God, with His delicacy and His love, responds to Rachel’s weeping with true not feigned words thus, in fact, Jeremiah’s text proceeds:

“Thus says the LORD: ‘Cease your cries of weeping, hold back your tears! There is compensation for your labor— oracle of the LORD—they shall return from the enemy’s land. There is hope for your future—oracle of the LORD—your children shall return to their own territory.’”(Jeremiah 31:16-17). In fact, because of the mother’s weeping, there is hope again for the children, who will live again.

This woman, accepted death at the moment of giving birth, so that her son could live … she and her weeping are now the origin of a new life for her exiled children, [who are] prisoners, far from their homeland. To Rachel’s sorrow and bitter weeping, the Lord responds with a promise that can now be for her a motive for true consolation: the people will be able to return from exile and live in faith, and free, their relation with God. The tears generated hope. And this is not easy to understand, but it is true. Many times in our life tears sow hope; they are seeds of hope.

As we know, this text of Jeremiah was later taken up by the evangelist Matthew and applied to the massacre of the innocents (cf. 2:16-18). A text that puts us before the tragedy of the killing of vulnerable human beings, to the horror of power that scorns and does away with life. The children of Bethlehem died because of Jesus. And He, innocent Lamb, would then die in turn for all of us. The Son of God entered in the pain of men. We must not forget this.

When someone turns to me and asks me difficult questions, for instance: “Tell me, Father, why do children suffer?” I truly do not know what to answer. I just say: “Look at the Crucified: God has given us His Son, He suffered, and perhaps you will find an answer there. “ But answers from here [he points to his head] there are none. Only by looking at God’s love that gives His Son, who offers His life for us, can indicate some way of consolation. And because of this we say that the Son of God entered in the pain of men; He shared and accepted death; His Word is definitively word of consolation, because it is born of weeping.

And on the Cross it is He, the dying Son, who gives new fecundity to His Mother, entrusting her to the disciple John and rendering her Mother of the believing people. Death is conquered, and thus Jeremiah’s prophecy reaches fulfillment. Mary’s tears also, as those of Rachel, generated hope and new life. Thank you.

[Original text: Italian] [Working Translation by ZENIT]

Italian Greetings

A warm welcome goes to the Italian-speaking pilgrims, and I wish all serenity and peace for the New Year. I am happy to receive the members of the “Prayer and Charity Associative Family” group, celebrating the 45th anniversary of their foundation and the representatives of the of the Blessed Vincenzo Romano Apostolic Center, gathered here for 25 years of service to the charism of vocational formation, and I thank them for the gift of the effigy of their Founder.

I greet the temporary professed minor brothers of the Province of Saint Anthony and the Youth Movement of the Franciscan Fraternity of Bethany: I exhort each one to intensify his prayer to grow in a true and profound friendship with Jesus.

Finally, I am happy to greet the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. I hope that you, dear young people, will be able to consider every day of the New Year a gift of God, to be lived with gratitude and rectitude, and always going forward! Always. May the New Year bring you, dear sick, consolation in body and spirit. May the Lord be close to you and Our Lady console you. And you, dear newlyweds, commit yourselves to realize a sincere communion of life in keeping with God’s plan.

[Original text: Italian] [Working Translation by ZENIT]

 The Holy Father’s Appeal

Yesterday, the news reached us from Brazil of the tragic massacre that happened in the prison of Manaus, where a violent clash between rival bands caused dozens of deaths. I express sorrow and concern for what has happened. I invite you to pray for the deceased, for their families and for all the detainees in that prison and for all who work there. And I renew my appeal for prisons to be places of re-education and re-integration into society, and that the conditions of life of the detainees be worthy of human persons.

I invite you to pray for these dead and alive detainees, and also for all the detainees in the world, so that prisons are for reinsertion and are not overcrowded; that they be places of reintegration. Let us pray to Our Lady, Mother of detainees: Hail Mary …

[Original text: Italian] [Working Translation by ZENIT]

Solidarity Appeal For The Families Affected By Typhoon Nock-Ten (Nina) In Bicol and Southern Tagalog Regions

Our dear Archbishops, Bishops, SAC Directors, Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On December 23, 2016, Typhoon Nock-Ten (local name: Nina) entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) and was named as another killer typhoon – with 1 confirmed death and 4 missing.

To date, NASSA/Caritas Philippines already received appeals for help from the Archdiocese of Caceres (Camarines Sur), and the Dioceses of Legazpi (Albay), Gumaca (Quezon Province), Virac (Catanduanes), and Boac (Marinduque).

As on-ground teams are continue their rapid assessments, immediate needs reported are:

  1.    Emergency shelter materials/kits for estimated 50,000 families;
  2.   Additional food packs for estimated 9,000 families; and
  3. Livelihood interventions –for agriculture, root crops, vegetables, livestock, fishery.

While assessment activities are still on-going in the arch/dioceses most affected by the typhoon to gather and consolidate data to provide more comprehensive reporting, NASSA/Caritas Philippines, on behalf of the Catholic Church of the Philippines, is now appealing to your generosity for cash assistance to augment the needs of the poor and most vulnerable families affected by Typhoon Nina in the five dioceses mentioned above.

You may deposit your donations to:

Bank:                          Bank of the Philippine Islands
Branch:                      Intramuros, Manila
Account Number:    4951-0074-18

Thank you very much for your continued dedication and selfless service.  Continue reading