In 2005 the Senate raised the age limit to fifteen and this year we have a proposal to reduce the age to twelve. This is all about the test of Legal Responsibility – at what age can a minor be said to have thought and acted like an adult. The truth is that it will be different in every case – I am sure we all know some very responsible twelve years old and some eighteen year olds that we would not trust to walk our dog!
In most countries in the western world there is more discretion. There is an in-between way. Up to twelve a child is deemed to be too young to prosecute as an adult – to be not responsible for their criminal actions, and over sixteen they are assumed to be an adult and should bear all responsibility for their action.
During the teen years there is a time, say twelve to sixteen years where a child may or may not be responsible for their actions. In legal terms it is called a rebuttable presumption. They are assumed to be too young to take all blame, but evidence can be introduced to show that they did indeed know what they were doing and should be treated and sentenced as such.
President Duterte is said to approve the proposed change. Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo has said the change is needed to protect the children, however, many of the extra judicial killings which have been tacitly approved by Duterte have been children and because of the Presidents words and actions there is never any legal consequences for the killers.
Critics say the only effect of the change would be for crime gangs to put up children under twelve instead of children under fifteen to face crimes on their behalf, and with the inherent corruption in the police and the legal system this will probably be the case.
This change will look good in the International Community who do not understand how the Philippines works, but will have little effect in actually helping teens. Drug and criminal gangs, still run by the most powerful families and politicians, will continue with business as usual.
As with all political changes and proposals in this lawless country. The truth behind the façade is very different – what looks good on the surface does not bear scrutiny, and usually served to advance one party’s agenda – and never that of the long suffering people.