Dispatch from Crame No. 455: A further commentary on the wicked move to lower the MACR


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Children, particularly street children, were among those summarily killed in Davao City at the height of the Davao Death Squad (DDS) phenomenon. This much was the finding of both UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston and the Human Rights Watch, in separate reports released in 2008 and 2009, respectively.

Fast forward to present, the erstwhile Mayor’s police-state has also targeted children, especially those who belong to our poorest and most marginalized communities, as cheap and expendable collateral damage in this administration’s war on drugs.

In some of the most infamous and deplorable cases, minors are dragged away kicking, screaming, and begging for mercy before being gunned down point-blank and eventually tagged as drug personalities. Yet all of this seems disturbingly par for the course for an administration who recently paraded 12 minors for a press free-for-all following a PDEA drug raid in Navotas the previous week.

It thus came as no surprise that this week, the House Committee on Justice approved, in blitzkrieg fashion, a bill which seeks to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) to 9 years old (revised to 12 years old) and the likelihood of the Senate following suit and yield to yet again another presidential whim.

Lowering the MACR is nothing more than an ignorant and short-term fix for the root causes of juvenile offending. But then again, desire for power is blind to truth or reason. It must have been political expediency that prompted the macabre reversal of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from once a champion of juvenile justice to a top legislator who wants our children in jail. Clearly, she is only driven by the need to show to Duterte that what his henchman Alvarez cannot do, she can succeed in doing. This power could have been used as a nurturing force to ameliorate our children. Instead, this blind obsession to display her perceived power, albeit believed by her beneficiaries of equally corrupted power, will only result in us losing our children to a criminal system that will devour their young spirit.

A lawmaker assures that the offending children will not be jailed but will merely be committed to a reform facility. Whether jailed or not, the mere assigning of a criminal liability to a child, hence, subjecting him or her to our flawed criminal justice system, is already bad enough. By doing so, a child is effectively labelled a criminal, a stigma that may well nigh be indelible.

I simply cannot fathom how we can hold children wholly responsible and accountable for a reality that they were simply born into and that they had no control in making or shaping. Are we so afflicted with apathy and sloth that we would rather punish the children for our failure to create a nurturing environment for them?

Why foster an increasingly hostile environment for children in conflict with the law instead of cultivating one that will provide food, education, health and other services and opportunities for children? Why subject children who have yet to discern fully what is right and wrong to a lifetime of trauma and social exclusion by labeling them as criminals? Why punish children for crimes that they are forced to commit in order to survive?

We cannot stand idly by and watch as our society inches ever close to inhumanity. We must protect our children at all costs. It is never too late to overcome this narrative that the current administration has kept shoving down our throats and has seeped into and poisoned our collective consciousness. It is never too late to reclaim our humanity as a people. It is never too late to act. ###

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