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State Principles and R.A.


With the lowering of the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility (MACR) – the age
of a person when he can be criminally liable – the State abandons its established
responsibility towards caring for and protection of the youth. With the passage of
R.A. 9344, the State introduced the concept of restorative justice in the Philippines
in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and UN Standard
Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Systems where the Philippines is
a party thereto and in accordance with the 1987 Constitution.

Section 2 of R.A. 9344 is very clear:

“Sec. 2. Declaration of State Policy. - The following State policies shall be observed at
all times:
(a) The State recognizes the vital role of children and youth in nation building
and shall promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual and
social well-being. It shall inculcate in the youth patriotism and nationalism,
and encourage their involvement in public and civic affairs.

(b) The State shall protect the best interests of the child through measures
that will ensure the observance of international standards of child protection,
especially those to which the Philippines is a party. Proceedings before any
authority shall be conducted in the best interest of the child and in a manner
which allows the child to participate and to express himself/herself freely.
The participation of children in the program and policy formulation and
implementation related to juvenile justice and welfare shall be ensured by
the concerned government agency.

(c) The State likewise recognizes the right of children to assistance, including
proper care and nutrition, and special protection from all forms of neglect,
abuse, cruelty and exploitation, and other conditions prejudicial to their

(d) Pursuant to Article 40 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of
the Child, the State recognizes the right of every child alleged as, accused of,
adjudged, or recognized as having infringed the penal law to be treated in a
manner consistent with the promotion of the child's sense of dignity and
worth, taking into account the child's age and desirability of promoting
his/her reintegration. Whenever appropriate and desirable, the State shall
adopt measures for dealing with such children without resorting to judicial
proceedings, providing that human rights and legal safeguards are fully
respected. It shall ensure that children are dealt with in a manner
appropriate to their well-being by providing for, among others, a variety of
disposition measures such as care, guidance and supervision orders,
counseling, probation, foster care, education and vocational training
programs and other alternatives to institutional care.

(e) The administration of the juvenile justice and welfare system shall take
into consideration the cultural and religious perspectives of the Filipino
people, particularly the indigenous peoples and the Muslims, consistent with
the protection of the rights of children belonging to these communities.

(f) The State shall apply the principles of restorative justice in all its laws,
policies and programs applicable to children in conflict with the law.”

The Act is definitely centered on the rights of the child over the crime committed.
The focus is on the protection of the offender and not on punishing the offender.

One of the notable features is: Protection of the “best interests of the child through
measures that will ensure the observance of international standards of child
protection” (Sec 2.(b)). This means that it is in the interest of the child must that his
rights of minority shall prevail over the interest of the State to punish criminals.

Another notable feature is the application of restorative justice (Sec 2.(f)).
Restorative justice is often contrasted with punitive justice. Restorative is emphasis
on repairing the harm caused by the crime, punitive is on punishing the offender.

Arguments for the Lowering of the MACR

Statistics from government agencies shows a rising criminality of children since
year 2010, however, is this enough ground to abandon R.A. 9344? Are there other
compelling reasons?
Should we secure our judgment on statistics alone?

One of the arguments for the lowering of the MACR is changing of times argument
that says that children of today are more discerned and more aware of right and
wrong because of technological advancements like the Internet and other advanced
educational and communications technologies.

However, there is no clear psychological basis for this yet. And the official position
of psychologists in the Philippines
actually tells us otherwise, as well as a head of
. There are no research conducted to verify this claim especially in the
Philippines where the Internet is still a privilege mostly enjoyed by the mid-middle

class and above, and the CICL were usually from lower-income families
. In addition,
the problem is deeply rooted in poverty
, and the state of poverty in the Philippines
remains unchanged.
Another argument is the surging criminality
anchored on pure statistical basis.
However, relying on statistics, especially government statistics is problematic in the
first place.

The PNP does not provide for the methodology of the research, and it is hard to
verify the validity, and cross-examine the data.

Further, numbers about the number of CICL and the crimes they committed tell
nothing more than that. It does not say whether or not these children acted on their
own independent judgment, or whether their parents to do something illegal use
them, or what compelled such child to do such crime. The numbers tell us very little
of the big picture.

Will this be enough to put children to criminal jeopardy? Just because more and
more children are allegedly involved in crimes, there is need to prosecute them?

The answer seems clear: the proper response to the problem is to prosecute all of
them by lowering the MACR, even though I have established that it lacks merit.
However, the problem with this is that it goes against the earlier efforts and
responsibility of the State to rehabilitate CICL.

It shifts the argument from: not blaming the child because he is a child to: blame and
prosecute the child.

According to the Children's Legal Rights and Development Center, Inc.
, lowering the
MACR will:

“undermine all efforts to build a child friendly juvenile justice system that supports
rehabilitation and reintegration. Moreover the most marginalized and neglected
group of our society, children from very low socio-economic backgrounds, would
even more have to suffer from degrading and humiliating treatments by being
locked away in detention centers or jails; often even together with adults. All this
runs counter to the principle of the "child's best interest" and against the
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), to which the Philippine government has
acceded to.”

Save the Children – UK. (2004) Breaking Rules: Children in Conflict with the Law
and the Juvenile Justice Process: The Experience in the Philippines. p.22
Ibid. p. 14 and 21