Wednesday, May 17, 2017

AGE OF CRIMINAL LIABILITY


 There is an expressed and thus  duly noted move in the Philippine Congress to lower the physical age of those subject to criminal liability.  The main reason proffered and justification invoked are basically one and the same, viz., there are more and more number of young people who engage in downright criminal action and reaction patterns.   The community has then become a more dangerous pace to live in and the citizens are thus subject to more criminal acts perpetrated by young people below fifteen years old.  Remedial response:  Lower the age of criminal liability to twelve or something the like.

Question:  Why are there now more criminals who are much younger in physical age?  How come more and more criminal acts are perpetrated by the younger generation?  What is wrong with them, i.e., their criminal minds and pursuant behaviour, their criminal disposition and consequent actuations?  Liquor drinkers. Prohibited drug users.  Snatchers and hold-uppers.  Thieves and victimizers, rapists even.  Friends of criminals, collaborators in criminal acts.  Young they are bad, older they become worst.  They sow fear in their community.  They cause havoc in society.  They are a national curse.

Answer:  Their criminal elders are their bad, really bad examples, their errant personal coaches and even close collaborators at times – their own parents included at times.  With the undeniable increase in the number of adult criminals of every kind – not really a small number of policemen themselves sadly included – so it is that the number of younger criminals come to fore.  There is a maxim that in a few words says – and rightly so:  Words are but air.  Examples are concrete teachers.  So it is that the bad deeds of older people are good teachers to the young.

January last, the CBCP issued a pastoral statement on the “Age of Criminal Liability”.  Among other things it said:  “The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines implores the Congress of the Philippines to keep intact the Juvenile Justice System and Welfare Act, specially regarding the age of criminal liability.  The purpose of the law is laudable, its present provisions, beneficial.  The fact that criminal elements make use of youngsters to commit crimes is no argument against the present benevolent provisions of the law...”

In addition to the above CBCP observations for the retention of the now binding age of criminal liability, let the following practical questions be asked in pursuit of an objective and sincere answer:  Why is it that most if not really all young criminals in the Country come from deprived places?  Is this because youngsters  from wealthy families, from affluent communities are all saints – all distinct exemplars of good manners and right conduct?


More.  Why is it that practically all youngsters involved in criminal acts, accordingly apprehended and made to undergo a kind of rehabilitation or something the like, are from poor families and miserable communities?  Why is it that the same approach is still waiting to be heard about erring young people from affluent families residing in affluent villages?  Is the Justice System in the Country in effect functional in the search for truth, justice and peace?