ICJ: Philippine Congress should block effort to reintroduce death penalty

The Philippines House of Representatives must immediately cease efforts to rush through legislation restoring the death penalty, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said today.

On 29 November 2016, the Sub-Committee on Judicial Reform, which is chaired by Congressman Marcelino “Ching” Veloso, hastened the passage of a bill restoring the death penalty in the Philippines.

According to reports received by the ICJ, ex-officio members of the Sub-Committee on Judicial Reform railroaded the proceedings and ignored important questions from other lawmakers questioning the need for the legislation or its urgent passage. The Sub-Committee did not present any report, as is the normal practice, on the discussions and information presented in the previous hearings.

“Filipino lawmakers seem intent on embracing the barbaric practice of executions purely as a political measure, without any understanding or even proper discussion of the death penalty’s impact or what their actions would mean to the international obligations of the Philippines,” said Emerlynne Gil, ICJ’s Senior International Legal Adviser for Southeast Asia.

A representative of the ICJ spoke at the hearing of the Sub-Committee on 22 November 2016, and brought to the lawmakers’ attention the country’s obligations under the 2nd Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the general prohibition on reintroduction of capital punishment once abolished, which commit the country not to execute anyone within its jurisdiction.

“There are already thousands of alleged cases of extrajudicial killings in the country. This bill, if it becomes law, will unquestionably usher the Philippines into a dark period where respect for the right to life is comprehensively degraded,” Gil emphasized.

The ICJ has previously written to President Rodrigo Duterte underscoring that the evidence shows that death penalty is not effective at deterring crime at a greater rate than alternative forms of punishment. Investing in improved detection and investigation techniques and capacity, and improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the justice system, is more likely to achieve real results in reducing crime.

The ICJ categorically opposes the death penalty and considers its use to be a violation of the right to life and freedom from cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment.

The UN General Assembly has repeatedly adopted resolutions by overwhelming majorities, calling on all retentionist States to impose a moratorium with a view to abolition.

Contact:

Ms. Emerlynne Gil, ICJ’s Senior International Legal Adviser
Telephone: +66 840923575
Email: emerlynne.gil(a)icj.org

Regional MPs call on Philippine counterparts to reject death penalty bill

Philstar photo

JAKARTA — Parliamentarians from across ASEAN today expressed alarm at what appears to be an attempt by the administration of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and its allies in the Philippine House of Representatives to railroad through Congress legislation to reintroduce the death penalty in the country.

Members of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) urged President Duterte and Philippine legislators to immediately desist in their pursuit of a reinstatement of the death penalty, calling on them to respect the Philippines’ international obligations and avoid undermining the country’s much-respected role as a regional leader on human rights protections.

“As citizens of ASEAN, we have looked to the Philippines as a regional leader in the global movement to abolish the death penalty since its decision to do so in 2006,” said APHR Chairperson Charles Santiago, a member of the Malaysian Parliament.

“Thus, it would be an incredible setback to our collective struggle if the Philippines were to take the dramatic step backward of reinstating the death penalty. The move would not only indicate a rejection of hard-fought progress, but would cause other ASEAN nations to question the Philippines’ commitment to the full gamut of international treaties it has signed.”

The Philippines formally abolished capital punishment in 2006 and ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), aiming at the worldwide abolition of the death penalty, in 2007.

“Since 2006, the Philippines’ move to abolish capital punishment has inspired other countries, including Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam, to restrict their use of the death penalty, which denotes positive regional progress in the move toward abolition. It would be a tragic blow to this regional leadership role to turn back now,” Santigo said.

On Tuesday, 29 November, the Philippine House Sub-Committee on Judicial Reform voted to approve House Bill No. 1, which would reinstate the death penalty in the Philippines for all heinous crimes. The bill will now proceed to the House Committee on Justice for further debate and approval. The bill’s proponents have indicated that they would like to see it passed by the House before the start of the Christmas recess on 16 December.  Continue reading

iDEFEND Campaign Advisory

Rappler photo

In response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s blatant attack on human rights, continuing and rampant killings, railroading of death bills (bills to restore death penalty and lowering of the age of criminal liability), ordering the Marcos Burial in LNMB, sexist attack on women, while failing to fulfill campaign promises like end of ENDO, genuine FOI and the lack of decisive programs to end poverty etc. iDEFEND (In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement) enjoins all human rights defenders and the public, including Filipinos and solidarity groups in different countries to unite and creatively protest against the rampant killings and violent governance of Duterte while failing to fulfill campaign promises on economic and social wellbeing of the Filipinos to a Global campaign to defend the RIGHT TO LIFE in the Philippines.

On December 10, 2016 (International Human Rights Day 2016) Global Day of Action in Defense of the Right to Life, iDEFEND calls on our people to strongly oppose the resurgence of authoritarian rule even as it feels like martial law is already here, as evidenced by now almost 6,000 victims of extrajudicial killings. We can only continue our work for human rights and sustainable development if our freedoms to express, report, organize, assemble and conduct public actions are preserved, and our civil liberties are guaranteed.

OUR MESSAGE: OUR ALTERNATIVE IS HUMAN RIGHTS. 

iDEFEND has always asserted the need for a human rights based governance system that addresses the root cause of criminality, and guarantees a sustainable and people centered development. We push for a harm reduction strategy in the approach to the drugs issue: institutionalizing a public health framework, a complete halt to the targeting and killing of suspected drug users, and rule-based law enforcement procedures in apprehending drug traders.

iDEFEND supports the implementation of an economic agenda based on social justice: an end to contractual labor, land conversions, demolitions, internal displacement, and militarization. The defense of the right to life refers to the protection of both the physical integrity as well as the ability of a person to lead a life of dignity. The right to life requires the absence of fear for our lives and our loved ones; the right to life requires job security, land security, housing rights, a sustainable environment, long-term economic opportunities, a justice system that works, and access to health care and education for all.

iDEFEND strongly condemns the revision of history, the blatant treachery against the Filipino people with no regard for the victims of Martial Law by allowing the burial of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNMB).

We encourage concern Filipinos, HRDs and solidarity movements and groups from all over the world to join this action by:

  1. Holding creative protest actions, events and activities wherever you are (Philippine embassies, freedom parks, offices, at home).
  2. Change profile picture and cover photos of your social media accounts. (see attached)
  3. Our general calls: KARAPATAN HINDI KARAHASAN!, STOP THE KILLINGS!, KABUHAYAN HINDI PATAYAN! NEVER AGAIN TO MARTIAL LAW, NEVER AGAIN TO THE MARCOSES!
  4. Upload photos of your action online and use the hashtags #KarapatanHindiPatayan #StopTheKillingsPH #HumanRightsDay2016
  5. Pls wear black

Please message us and send details of your December 10 action for close coordination, announcement and media projection.

https://web.facebook.com/iDEFENDHumanRightsandDignityMovement/

Stand Up for Human Rights in Development

3 Steps to Stand Up for Human Rights in Development

December 2016

On the anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we join with communities and civil society groups around the world to call upon development finance institutions, governments, and businesses to stand up for human rights.

Respect for human rights is essential for development. The Declaration on the Right to Development recognizes that States have a duty in both their national policymaking and their international development cooperation to promote universal respect for human rights, and development which aims at the constant improvement of the well-being of all. The Declaration affirms that the right to development is predicated on active, free and meaningful participation in development, and in equality of opportunity and the fair distribution of benefits without discrimination. The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights further highlight the requirement that companies and States, including when acting through multilateral financial institutions, undertake human rights due diligence to ensure their investments respect human rights.

Unfortunately, today we continue to see investments in the name of development that do not meet the needs or respect the human rights of poor or marginalized communities. We see a shrinking space for civil society where communities are left out of critical development decisions and their participation is curtailed as countries enact laws restricting fundamental freedoms. We see an environment where human rights defenders who speak out about development proposals find themselves labeled as “anti-development” and subjected to threats, intimidation, detention, and violent attacks.

As we celebrate Human Rights Day, we reaffirm the fundamental proposition of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights – that each one of us is entitled to the full range of human rights, and that it is everyone’s responsibility to uphold them.

We call upon all development financiers to Stand up for Human Rights by taking the following steps:

1) Promote Rights-Respecting Development. Adopt a policy commitment to respect human rights and implement due diligence to prevent human rights violations.
2) Protect Civil Society Participation. Ensure meaningful participation in development processes and promote an enabling environment for civil society.

3) Defend the Defenders. Adopt a zero-tolerance policy on attacks against human rights defenders and enact protocols to prevent and respond to such attacks.

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Vatican calls for trust, responsibility on nuclear technology

Credit: Steve Jurvetson via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Credit: Steve Jurvetson via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

By Hannah Brockhaus

Vienna, Austria, Dec 6, 2016 / 12:26 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In order to realize the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons the discourse of the international community surrounding nuclear security must be based on an ethic of trust, responsibility, and cooperation – not fear and suspicion, Vatican official Msgr. Antoine Camilleri said Tuesday.

“The logic of fear and mistrust that is epitomized by nuclear deterrence must be replaced with a new global ethic,” Msgr. Camilleri said Dec. 6. “We need an ethic of responsibility, solidarity, and cooperative security adequate to the task of controlling the power of nuclear technology.”

The Under-Secretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States, Msgr. Camilleri spoke at the International Conference on Nuclear Security: Commitments and Actions held in Vienna Dec. 5-9.

Put on by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the conference was comprised of two main parts: state officials delivering messages, commitments and actions, and policy discussions based on six broad themes central to nuclear security.

In his speech Msgr. Camilleri recognized the considerable progress that has already been made to nuclear security and safety internationally through measures such as the UN Security Council Resolution 1540, the Nuclear Security Summits, the Nuclear Terrorism Convention, and the work of the IAEA.

Despite these advancements, however, he stressed the importance of not becoming “complacent” about nuclear technology, emphasizing that discussion and agreement among countries must be encouraged.

“The promotion of nuclear security faces significant challenges,” he acknowledged, “including the limited, insufficient and often stalled efforts to prevent proliferation and move toward a world free of nuclear weapons.”

“Therefore,” he continued, “to respond adequately to the challenges of nuclear security, the Holy See believes it to be essential that the international community embrace an ethic of responsibility, in order to foster a climate of trust, and to strengthen cooperative security through multilateral dialogue.”

In no way downplaying the “serious technical and diplomatic challenges” represented by threats to nuclear security, Msgr. Camilleri conveyed the issue’s significant importance to the Holy See, explaining how the root causes that encourage nuclear weapons cannot be ignored.

The challenges must be “tackled by addressing the wider security, political, economic and cultural dynamics that lead state and non-state actors to seek security, legitimacy, and power in nuclear weapons,” he said.

“Therefore,” he said, “the critically important work of strengthening nuclear security” must happen in the context of “broader efforts to promote socio-economic development, political participation, respect for fundamental human rights and the rule of law.”

Among the many different areas requiring increased efforts, the Holy See delegation would emphasize two, he said – the physical protection of nuclear material, and the counteraction of insider threats, and the prevention of cyber-attacks.

“Ensuring that nuclear and other radioactive material is safely contained must remain central for the work of nuclear security,” he said, “as failure to control nuclear material could have catastrophic consequences.”

As well, “increasing attention has to be paid to the strengthening of information security and computer security as well as to ensuring the confidentiality of information which pertains to nuclear security.”

On both of these issues, he clarified, the responsibility for maintaining the effective security of all nuclear and radioactive material within a state “rests primarily with that state.”

Though “cooperation between states is essential” because many threats to nuclear security “do not respect borders and are facilitated by the political instability and crises that sadly plague numerous parts of our world.”

Msgr. Camilleri presented the greeting of Pope Francis to participants, quoting from the Pope’s Sept. 25, 2015 address to the UN General Assembly, which urged the international community “to work for a world free of nuclear weapons, in full application of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, in letter and spirit, with the goal of a complete prohibition of these weapons.”

Continuing the Pope’s words, he said the “security of our own future depends on guaranteeing the peaceful security of others, for if peace, security and stability are not established globally, they will not be enjoyed at all.”

Pope’s Morning Homily: ‘Allow Christ to Transform, Re-create You’

Francis Says Have Courage to Name Sins, Let Him Make You New Person

pope_francis_advent2December 5, 2016 |  Deborah Castellano Lubov |   Zenit

Allow Christ to transform and re-create you.

According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis stressed this to faithful during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, drawing from today’s readings, and reflecting on the renewal that the Lord brings.

Yet, the Pope warned, we cannot paint over our sins without truly being ashamed in our hearts. Only by calling sins by their name, he said, will we be able to allow God to make us new women and men.

Recalling that in the first reading, the Prophet Isaiah speaks to us about renewal, that “Everything will be changed, from ugly to beautiful, from wicked to good.” A change for the better: this, he said, is what the People of Israel were expecting from the Messiah.

Reflecting on today’s Gospel which speaks of how Jesus went about healing people, the Jesuit Pope pointed out that they followed Him because He helped them “to see a path of change,” not because He was some “sort of novelty.”

“They followed Him because the message of Jesus touched their hearts,” he said. 

Not Make up

What Jesus did, Pope Francis underscored, was not only change things from ugly to beautiful or from wicked to good: “Jesus made a transformation.”

“It’s not a problem of making something beautiful, it’s not a problem of cosmetics, of make-up,” he said, noting, “He changed everything from the inside!”

“He made a change that was a re-creation: God had created the world; man fell into sin; Jesus came to re-create the world. And this is the message, the message of the Gospel, that we can clearly see: before healing that man, He forgave his sins. Go that way, to a re-creation, He re-creates that man, [changing him] from a sinner to a just man: He re-creates him as a just man. He makes him new, totally new.”

“Jesus,” he said, “is capable of making us – us sinners – new persons.” It is something, Pope Francis said, “that Mary Magdalen intuits.”

While she was healthy, he noted,“she had a wound within: she was a sinner.” Yet, he highlighted, she had an intuition that Jesus was able to heal not only the body, “but the wounds of the soul. He could re-create it!”

For this reason, Francis stressed, great faith is needed.

The Lord, the Pope said, “helps us to prepare ourselves for Christmas with great faith” because “for the healing of the soul, for the existential healing the re-creation that Jesus brings requires great faith in us.” Being transformed, he said “is the grace of salvation that Jesus brings.”

Stop Thinking: ‘I Can’t Do It’

“We need to overcome the temptation to say “I can’t do it,” and to allow ourselves instead to be transformed, to be re-created by Jesus. “Courage” is the word of God.”

Instead, especially as we move toward Christmas, Francis noted, we must admit and name our sins, those which make us ashamed, and say: ‘Lord, Re-create me’

The Pope concluded, encouraging us to let Him cancel our sins in order to make us truly new.

Francis concluded, emphasized a passage, which told the story of a Saint, a great Bible scholar, who had a very strong character. The Saint, talking to the Lord said: ‘Are you content, O Lord’ – ‘No!’ – ‘But I have given you everything!’ – ‘No, there’s something missing…’ And this poor man did another penance, said another prayer, did another vigil: ‘I have done this for you, O Lord. Is everything ok? – ‘No! Something’s missing…’ – ‘But what is missing, Lord?’ – ‘Your sins are lacking! Give me your sins!’

“This is what the Lord is asking of us today. ‘Courage! Give me your sins and I will make you a new man, a new woman.’ May the Lord give us faith, to believe this.”

Pope at Angelus: This Advent, Let’s Prepare the Way of the Lord

‘With the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, it is God Himself Who has come to dwell among us, to free us from selfishness, sin and corruption, as these attitudes are of the devil’

pope_francis_angelus

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

In this second Sunday of Advent’s Gospel reading, we hear echoed the invitation of John the Baptist: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 3,2). With these same words, Jesus will start his mission in Galilee (cf. Mt 4:17); and this will also be an announcement that will bring the disciples on their first missionary experience (cf. Mt 10,7). The Evangelist Matthew greatly wishes to present John as one who prepares the way for Christ’s coming, and the disciples, as continuing Jesus’ preaching. This is the same joyful proclamation: come, the kingdom of God is at hand … indeed, it is in our midst! This is very important: “The kingdom of God is among you,” says Jesus. And John announces that Jesus will say later: “The kingdom of God has come, has arrived, is in your midst.” This is the central message of all Christian mission. When a missionary goes, a Christian goes to proclaim Jesus, he does not go to proselytize, as if he were a fan seeking his team more closely. No, just announcing: “The kingdom of God is among you!,” the missionary prepares the way for Jesus, Who meets His people.

But what is this Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven? They are synonyms. We think now to something about the afterlife, eternal life. Of course, this is true, God’s Kingdom will extend endlessly beyond earthly life, but the good news that Jesus leads – and that John anticipates – is that in this Kingdom of God, we do not need to wait for Him in the future: He approached, [and], in some way, is already present. We can experience right now this spiritual power. “The kingdom of God is among you!,” says Jesus. God comes to establish His dominion in our history, in the ‘today’ of every day of our lives; and where it is accepted with faith and humility, love, joy and peace flourish.

The condition to become part of this Kingdom, is to make a change in our lives, that is, convert, convert ourselves every day, one step forward every day … [It] is to leave the convenient but misleading streets, the idols of this world: success at all costs, the power at the expense of the weak, the thirst for wealth, pleasure at any price. And instead open the way for the Lord Who comes. He does not take away our freedom, but gives us true happiness. With the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, it is God Himself Who has come to dwell among us, to free us from selfishness, sin and corruption, as these attitudes are of the devil: looking for success at all costs; seeking power at the expense of the weakest; having the thirst for wealth and seeking pleasure at any price.

Christmas is a day of great joy, also exterior, but is primarily a religious event for which spiritual preparation is needed. In this Advent season, let us be guided by the exhortation of John the Baptist: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” (v. 3). Let us prepare the way of the Lord and straighten His paths, when we examine our conscience, when we watch our attitudes, to chase away these sinful attitudes that I mentioned, which are not of God: the success at all costs; the power at the expense of the weakest; the thirst for riches; the pleasure at any price.

May the Virgin Mary prepare the encounter with this always greater love, which is what Jesus brings, and Who on Christmas, was made small, like a seed fallen into the earth. And Jesus is this seed: the seed of the Kingdom of God.

[Original Text: Italian] [Translation by Deborah Castellano Lubov]

Cardinal Tagle: ‘Where Children Are Born, the Church Has a Future’

Manila archbishop, president of Caritas, gives book-length interview

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“It was difficult for me to accept the proposal to do this book, because I’m a reserved person, who doesn’t like to place himself in the public eye,” said Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila and President of Cartitas Internationalis, responding last week — at the headquarters of “La Civilta Cattolica” — to questions posed by Paolo Ruffini, Director of Tv2000, regarding his book-interview I Have Learned from the Least – My Life, My Hopes, published by Emi and edited by Gerolamo and Lorenzo Fazzini.

The Philippine Cardinal’s affirmation is not an exercise in false modesty; after all his genuine and simple style reveals a constantly joyful look and an amiable language. In the course of the presentation, introduced by Father Antonio Spadaro, S.J., Director of “La Civilta Cattolica,” the Cardinal did not skimp on moments of lightness and amusing jokes.

He himself let it be understood several times that his attitude sinks its roots in his personal history, of a man of the people, who grew up in a fervent Catholic family, used to dealing with people by leaving aside any sort of formalism.

Every day in chaotic Manila, Cardinal Tagle immerses himself in a variegated humanity and brings it spiritual teaching. In fact, he explains, “when we take the Lord’s Word and His example seriously, we, as Church, become more human, and the encounter with Jesus becomes also an encounter with human beings.”

Material poverty is widespread in the Philippines, where however, hidden riches enable one to perceive a light of hope in the future.

The Archbishop of Manila stresses that the resource of the Church in Asia resides in fact in the “suffering of many Asian martyrs, of the simple people who know in a mysterious way the fortitude that only the Lord can give.” And he adds: “Unfortunately, in a Church used to great numbers, there is faith but there is also the temptation to depend on privileges, whereas in a minority Church, there is only the Lord.”

However, Cardinal Tagle says there is another good reason to hope in the future of the Church in Asia: “the presence of so many children, on average a young population.” He gives the example of the Philippines, in whose Churches “there are many, many youngsters.” And, “where there are children and youngsters, there is a future!” he exclaims.

Hope for the future coexists also with idols that constantly threaten modern man. The Cardinal points them out: riches, honor, ambitions, sex, luxury, but also the “desire <to fulfill only> our personal interests and to promote only the wellbeing of my family, my group, of my country.” He also stresses individualism, which is “a form of idolatry.”

None of us, he admits, is immune to the call of idols. Therefore, it is important to make a daily examination of conscience to see “what my idols are, what they have commanded me, and what I have obeyed.”

Moreover, for him every day is a harbinger of “a surprise,” because, the Cardinal reflects humbly, he almost “cannot believe that the Lord called a person like me to be a priest, a Bishop and now a Cardinal.” However, “in the mystery of this vocation, I am also certain that my hands do not work but rather those of the Lord.”

The figure of a Saint that constantly “points the way” to Cardinal Tagle in his ministry is that of Saint Joseph. “He is a silent Saint, an ordinary man, a worker, engaged, whose plan of life is interrupted with an intervention from on High. He is a just man, but also of profound faith. No word of his is preserved in the Bible, but he kept in himself the Word of the Lord.”  Continue reading

On the Lowering of the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility

Position Paper of the Philippine Action for Youth Offenders (PAYO) and the Child Rights Network (CRN) on the Lowering of the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility

 

The Philippine Action for Youth Offenders (PAYO) and the Child Rights Network (CRN) vehemently oppose the proposal to lower the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility (MACR) from 15 years old to 9 years old. This move undermines the best interest of the child and will not solve the problem of children committing crimes. It distracts us from the real reasons why children offend such as poor parenting and supervision, peer pressure, social isolation, family conflict, and poverty. Moreover, it is an impulsive reaction to public perception media hype that the number of crimes committed by children has increased since the enactment of the law. This perception is unfounded. There is no clear evidence to back this claim and no attempt has been made to analyze the possible factors that influence the crimes committed by children.

Lowering the age of criminal responsibility will result to negative consequences for children and the public. It will increase the number of children detained for long periods of time, making them more likely to become hardened offenders. Detention/ Jail conditions in the Philippines are not rehabilitative. They are harsh: children have been reported to experience torture, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse while in detention. Research also shows that detaining or incarcerating children is more damaging to them than beneficial. It has a profoundly negative impact on young people’s mental and physical well-being (i.e., depression and poor mental health), their education (i.e., learning disabilities not recognized or addressed), and their future employment (i.e., reduces their ability to remain in the workforce). Detention may also increase the likelihood that young people will recidivate, compromising public safety. 1

Incarcerating children goes against established principles of proportionality and fair treatment and contradicts the best interest of the child and the rights of the child to maximum survival and development. Lowering the MACR further reinforces the existing situation of syndicates using younger children in their criminal activities. Our focus should be on catching the adult syndicates instead of punishing the children, who are clearly the victims in this situation.

Emerging knowledge about cognitive, psychosocial, and neurobiological development in adolescence also provides evidence that young people should not be held to the same standards of criminal responsibility as adults. Steinberg, L., & Scott, E. (2003)’s study argued that “Adolescents’ decision-making capacities are diminished as they are less able to resist coercive influence and their character is still undergoing change.”2 Another study by Steinberg L. (2008) on adolescent risk-taking found that risk-taking increases between childhood and adolescence due to changes in the brain’s socio-emotional system.3 The immaturity of young people due to their brain underdevelopment influences their decision making and susceptibility to perform risky activities. This, along with the influence of criminogenic environments where children reside (i.e., many CICL live in communities where crimes are rampant) and the CICL’s personal circumstance (i.e., poor, lacking in education, neglect/ abandonment, poor parental supervision) can be considered mitigating factors in their criminal culpability.

Our Congress took thirteen years to craft the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 (JJWA). In 2013, it was amended to improve provisions on the administration of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council (JJWC), handling repeat offenders and children at risk of offending, and providing intervention and rehabilitative services for CICL. The MACR was preserved at 15 years old. It is imprudent to cast aside all the years of diligent study and in-depth discussions to formulate a Restorative Juvenile Justice system in the Philippines without careful research and in consideration of the current facts and laws promoting and protecting the rights of children.

There are indeed challenges in implementing the JJWA and these must be effectively addressed. However, difficulties in implementing the law cannot be used to justify the amendment; otherwise, the rights of children will be compromised merely on the basis of expediency. This does not mean ignoring the complaints of duty bearers tasked to implement the law. There are legitimate concerns that must be attended to by means of thorough study of processes to assist CICL and children at risk. What is glaring, however, is the lack of evidence based information to support the moves to lower the MACR and the negative impact of criminalizing children. Lowering MACR is a violation of the right of the child to genuine protection

Any attempt to amend the JJWA should be carefully studied and must ensure consonance with the Philippines’ commitments to international agreements, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (Beijing Rules) and the UN Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency (Riyadh Guidelines). The CRC’s General Comment No. 10 clearly states that: “Rule 4 of the Beijing Rules recommends that the beginning of MACR shall not be fixed at too low an age level, bearing in mind the facts of emotional, mental, and intellectual maturity… From these recommendations, it can be concluded that a minimum age of criminal responsibility below the age of 12 years is considered by the Committee not to be internationally acceptable… At the same time, the Committee urges States parties not to lower their MACR to the age of 12. A higher MACR, for instance 14 or 16 years of age, contributes to a juvenile justice system which, in accordance with Article 40 (3) (b) of CRC, deals with children in conflict with the law without resorting to judicial proceedings, providing that the child’s human rights and legal safeguards are fully respected.” President Rodrigo Duterte, in his inaugural speech clearly said that “… Let me reiterate that the Republic of the Philippines will honor treaties and international obligations.” We will hold the President to this promise to ensure that the CRC and the other abovementioned international agreements are respected and upheld.

At this time, let us focus our efforts on fully implementing the JJWA, supporting and capacitating duty bearers so they can effectively execute their responsibilities under the law. Let us support programs that strengthen families and teach parents how to effectively raise their children without the use of corporal punishment and violence which have been found to increase delinquent behaviors in children. Moreover, effective programs and services to prevent young people from offending or re-offending, to facilitate diversion of CICL, and to restore those who have been harmed through restorative justice practices must be established.

In the true spirit of our Constitution, our legislators must recognize the vital role of the youth in nation-building and promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social well-being.

1 The Dangers of Detention: The Impact of Incarcerating Youth in Detention and Other Secure Facilities. A Justice Policy Institute Report by Barry Holman and Jason Ziedenberg

2 Steinberg, L., & Scott, E. (2003). Less guilty by reason of adolescence: Developmental immaturity, diminished responsibility,

and the juvenile death penalty. American Psychologist, 58(12), 1009-1018

3 Steinberg, L. (2008). A social neuroscience perspective on adolescent risk-taking. Developmental Review, 28, 78-106

The Philippine Action for Youth Offenders (PAYO) is a coalition of 16 civil society organizations and several individuals working together for the realization of a just and humane society for children in conflict with the law (CICL). Upholding the principles of Restorative Justice, it promotes and protects the rights of CICL through advocacy, lobbying, training, research, and networking.

The Child Rights Network (CRN) is an alliance of government and non-government organizations advocating for the passage of national laws that will protect and fulfill the rights of Filipino children. CRN member-organizations adhere to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which was ratified by the Philippine government in July 1990. The Network aims to generate support for children’s issues among different stakeholders, including children, legislators and decision-makers in the national government.

Position Paper of World Vision Development Foundation

No to Lowering the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility from 15 to 9 Years Old

 

World Vision Development Foundation, Inc. is strongly opposed to any attempt of lowering the Philippine’s Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility (MACR) from 15 to 9 years old, due to the following:

  • The Philippine government should instead fully uphold and implement RA 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, as amended by RA 10630 which upholds the principles of restorative justice.
  • Children should not fully bear the consequence of their committed crimes, which are usually or possibly influenced and exploited by the parents or abusive adults.
  • Children under the age of 18 should never be tried as adults and should always be dealt within the juvenile justice system. They should not be placed in adult prisons. Capital punishment and life imprisonment should not be imposed for offenses committed by children.
  • It will be a clear violation of the international human rights treaty bodies such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child (UNCRC), where the Philippines is a member state. UNCRC recommends that the minimum age of criminal responsibility should be set between 14 to 16 years old. Lowering it to 9 years old is simply not an option.

I.     Situationer

Last 2014, there are 14,993 cases of Children in Conflict with the Law (CICL) in the Philippines1. That is more than one child per hour being accused or adjudged of committing an offense under Philippine laws and they are vulnerable to abuse during arrest and detention. The Philippines is home to over 15,000 Children in Conflict with the Law (CICL) as of 2014 data from the Philippine National Police (PNP). Majority of these crimes were property-related wherein theft was considered the highest with the outstanding number of 5,886 cases per year.

II.    Policy Environment

With the new administration’s relentless war on crime, one of the most controversial issues in juvenile justice as of the moment is the lowering of the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility (MACR). In the Philippines, RA 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, as amended by RA 10630, Section 6 on the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility states that “A child fifteen (15) years of age or under at the time of the commission of the offense shall be exempt from criminal liability.”

With the current movement in the legislature to lower the MACR from 15 to 9 years old, World Vision supports and adheres to the implementation of the RA 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, as amended by RA 10630 that places the nation in the forefront of Asian progress on juvenile justice. The law, the first of its kind in Asia, was clearly passed to bring the country closer to its obligations as a signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and pursuant to the provisions of the Philippine Constitution and Philippine special laws on protecting children.

Also, the UNCRC General Comment 10 (2007) clearly states that the minimum age of criminal responsibility below the age of 12 years is considered by the Committee not to be internationally acceptable.

The proposed amendment to the 2006 Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act would lower the age of criminal responsibility – the age in which children can be deemed criminally responsible for their behavior to 9 years old. This is also a direct contravention of the recommendation from the UNCRC, which has urged states to set the age of criminal responsibility at 14 to 16 in order to contribute to a juvenile justice system that is in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

This amendment also contradicts the statement based on Rule 4 of the Beijing Rules that recommends that the beginning of MACR shall not be fixed at too low an age level, bearing in mind the facts of emotional, mental and intellectual maturity.

III. Studies on Discernment

Scientific studies conducted by the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) and the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) in 1997 and the Philippine Action for Youth and Offenders (PAYO) in 2002, have shown that the age of discernment (i.e. the ability to tell right from wrong and the consequences of actions) of in-school children (CWC and PLM, 1997) and out-of-school children (PAYO, 2002) are 15 years old and 18 years old, respectively2.

The issue on discernment is a crucial element in giving the verdict to CICL. In Roper, et. al. vs. Simmons, the United States Supreme Court gave three main points why CICL or juvenile offenders cannot with reliability be classified among worst offenders:

  1. a) Lack of maturity and an underdeveloped sense of responsibility are found in youth more often than in adults and are more understandable among the young. These qualities often result in impetuous and ill-considered actions and decisions;
  2. b) Juveniles are more vulnerable or susceptible to negative influences and outside pressures, including peer pressure. This explained in part by the prevailing circumstance that juveniles have less control, or less experience with control, over their own environment; and
  3. c) The character of a juvenile is not as well-formed as that of an adult. The personality traits of juveniles are more transitory, less fixed.

The susceptibility of juveniles to immature and irresponsible behavior means their irresponsible conduct is not as morally reprehensible as that of an adult. From a moral standpoint, it would be misguided to equate the failings of a minor with those of an adult, for a greater possibility exists that a minor’s character deficiencies will be reformed.

IV.    Calls to Action

We call on the Philippine Government to:

  1. Take all necessary and concrete measures to ensure that the age of criminal responsibility is not lowered, and to consider the crucial role of defining the age of discernment of children involved in crimes;
  2. Provide diversion or intervention program that is rights-based, age and developmentally appropriate to children in conflict with the law. Every municipality/province should have its own youth detention home for CICL that complies to standards and provide adequate budgetary allocation for it;
  3. Strengthen the monitoring of the plight of children in conflict with the law, especially those already detained or imprisoned. Children, particularly those who have committed minor offenses should be released immediately;
  4. Strengthen advocacy to properly implement RA 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, as amended by RA 10630 among local officials, law enforcers, and service providers. Parents and children at the community should also be oriented on JJWA, Responsible Parenthood and Child Rights and Responsibilities;
  5. Solicit support from the Local Government Units to establish and make their Local Council for the Protection of Children/ Barangay Council for the Protection of Children functional; and;
  6. Strengthen the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council (JJWC), as the agency mandated to oversee the implementation of the JJWA as amended by RA 10630, and its Regional Juvenile Justice and Welfare Committee.

World Vision urges the Philippine Government to implement the principle of restorative justice, rather than retribution. Children’s delinquent past should not define their future.

“Our Vision for every child, life in all its fullness,

Our Prayer for every heart the will to make it so.”

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