Lowering the Age of Criminal Liability is CRIMINAL in Nature

(RA 7610 declared the State to provide special protection to children from all forms of abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation and discrimination, and other conditions prejudicial to their development including child labor and its worst forms.)

We are overly dismayed that a plenary session is being held for one of the most outrageous law in the Philippine history. For lack of better ideas on how to curb criminality, our law makers are now going to legally process a bill that will label children as young as nine (9) year olds as criminals.


Their argument: children used by criminals go scot-free because of the special protection accorded to them. Supposedly, this is intended for the good of our nation.


We, a network of civil society organizations, rights groups, peace and faith-based institutions, call our lawmakers to wake up and see sense. For wanting something "good" for our nation, we seemingly became automatons, troubleshooters in worst sense that we're only too ready to shoot even our own children.

What is good for our nation are children who are well cared for: those who can go to school, who have roofs over their heads, can eat healthy food, and who have adults who are capable of providing guidance whenever they are lost. 


So we ask for what reasons should those elders in the congress would want to prosecute and kill our lost children? If children are lost is it not because we, the elders, have erred?


This bill in itself is a crime because it violates the spirit of laws protecting children including, for example Republic Act 7610, that declares the state shall provide special protection to children from all forms of abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation and discrimination, and other conditions prejudicial to their development including child labor and its worst forms.


If this bill aims to deter the criminals, who are using children in their dirty work, we may only end up punishing the children but not the older accomplices.


What is needed is a solid social welfare plan for poor families prioritizing children's education and meeting their basic needs. The more viable solution to prevent children from committing petty crimes is to get these families out of poverty.  


To our elected leaders of the land, we believe that you have children, nephews and nieces, and younger siblings of your own . Do we aim to be a nation who would line-up our children in need of parental care and guidance with hardened criminals? How will we be able to sleep at night knowing that these young ones, needing parental care and love are languishing in jail, facing a bleak future, threatened by abuse of violence, and worse, even death, because of our decision.

Shouldn't we look for and return to the flock, even just one lost sheep in a herd, just like our Lord Jesus do? To aid these lost children to grow as law-abiding citizen, our nation's hope, over choosing to throw them in jail for what their young minds cannot fully understand yet. We were all children once. We know the answer.


Frustrated and angered by the spate of killings brought in by the government’s drug campaign, groups took to the street the celebration of Human Rights Day with Zumba.

With body placards calling respect for Human Rights, women from the urban poor groups in Barangay Tatalon, Quezon City, with the faith-based network the Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. rocked it from Espana Boulevard to the final stop of the mobilization at Mendiola Peace Arc.


 Hundreds of contingents from different rights organizations observed the 68th International Human Rights Day with a huge mobilization from different points in Metro Manila. Calls of protest include the looming return of death penalty and the grave issue on lowering the minimum age of criminal accountability on children.

“It’s exasperating that despite the call for change, abuses of human rights is more rampant. Not only the killings horrify many but also these impending passage of ‘death bills’ are shaking us out of our shell and make us cry for compassion and justice,” PMPI National Coordinator Yolanda Esguerra said.

In a statement released by the groups, they call on the lawmakers to uphold Human Rights as their gift to the people on HR Day.

We are calling all the lawmakers and those in power to end the killings and this ‘hangman’ system and instead uphold the human rights of all, especially the vulnerable poor and children, the statement said.

“Sentencing criminals to death and punishing children offenders violate their inherent right to life. It has been proven that in many countries of the world, including ours, death penalty is not a deterrent to committing crimes. More than this, putting young children to jail with hardened criminals violates further the rights of children. Studies have also shown the ineffectiveness of deprivation of liberty, especially for children in conflict with the law. It impedes their chance for rehabilitation,” Esguerra expounded. 

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TODAY, we march to celebrate the day of Andres Bonifacio and all the heroes who were like him: the martyrs and the brave who fought for our nation. We celebrate the nationalist and altruist bravery of those who died in the night for us to see the break of dawn.

We sing our hymns and we recognize in reverence the reasons we are standing free; the courageous forebears who gave us the free country to love; the selfless mothers who braved the darkness in order to bring in the light.

But today, we are indignant. The heroism we know has been tainted by politics, when Pres. Rodrigo Duterte struck a deal with the Marcoses and ordered that Marcos be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LnMB).

This act is a slap in the face of the many victims of this false "hero."

Today, as we pay tribute to the true heroes of our nation, we hold President Rodrigo Duterte, the Supreme Court, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Marcos family responsible for causing the surreptitious burial of the dictator's remains at LnMB, thus desecrating the memories of our true heroes.

Real heroes did not declare Martial Law. They fought against it. Real heroes did not harass and sow fear. They opposed it. Real heroes did not steal from people. They suffered from this plunder and protested in the streets. Real heroes did not commit brutality. They endured it.  Even to their deaths. And, it is their disappearances, their torture, their abductions, their murders that have made us value our freedom and our nationalist visions.

The perpetrator of Martial Law horrors is never a hero. Do not, for one second, think that Marcos is part of today’s celebration. Several arms in the legislature and judiciary may have been twisted, but we rise to fight for what we believe in.

And, it is in this belief that we acknowledge the young ones, the “millennials,” the pag-asa ng bayan, for being one with the many victims against this false hero: for rising up to condemn this utter disregard of the rights of the Marcos victims and their bereaved families, who are the true and real heroes.

Today we celebrate the National Heroes’ Day and the awakening of the young. Together we build a nation that respects human rights that values the truth and promotes justice. 

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20 November 2016

President - Republic of the Philippines
Malacañang Palace, MANILA

Dear Mr. President,

We, the Bishop, Clergy, Religious and Lay Leaders of the Diocese of Legazpi, greet you and wish you all the graces and blessings from our Merciful and Compassionate God!

In the last elections, you won overwhelmingly over your rivals. We saw it as a repudiation of past administrations whose efforts to improve the living conditions of our people, despite advances in economic growth and progress, have barely benefited the poorest of the poor. Your popular mandate seems to be indicative of a people who have become weary and wary of empty promises by politicians. For the poor especially, whose lives are mired in dire poverty, unemployment and hopelessness, you, Mr. President, represent their last bastion of hope, and your rise to the Presidency a golden opportunity.

We trust that you are very much aware of this, and that you share their dreams, too. In fact, you have embarked on a number of programs that will bring this to fruition, such as directing the various government agencies to facilitate services, cutting down on red tape to provide more access for the poor.

More importantly, you have waged a war on illegal drugs, a menace that has resulted in ruined lives, wrecked homes and destroyed dreams. We assure you, Mr. President, that we are in full support of your desire to eradicate this drug problem. With you we dream of a drug-free Philippines where our young are able to freely fulfill their dreams, and every one – especially the poor – is able to express themselves without fear and find their rightful place in society. Like you we want those unscrupulous persons and groups that make possible the entry, production and distribution of these illegal substances, to be found, arrested and brought to justice.

Recent events, however, make us suspect that this golden opportunity may be slowly slipping away. It seems to us too much focus is put on the eradication of the drug problem, and the solution lies merely in the killing of drug suspects, who already number close to 5000 to date. Most of all, it saddens us to see that the majority of the victims of this war against drugs are the very same poor whose lives you promised to protect and alleviate from the shackles of abject poverty.

Mr. President, we reiterate the position of the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations, that killing is morally and legally wrong. Morally, because God wants the salvation of the sinner and not his death (Ezekiel 33,11). Legally, because, being a lawyer yourself, you know that one is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt; and even if one is proven guilty, the most that the law provides is reclusio perpetua (life imprisonment). Yes, as we said above, we support your drive against illegal drugs and other forms of criminality, but we question the method, for “the end does not justify the means”.

We further acknowledge that many of our law enforcers are honest-to-goodness public servants, but there are reports on the spate of “rub-outs” allegedly done by the police and government-sponsored death squads. Mr. President, we urge you to order especially these extra-judicial killings be stopped, investigated and those responsible arrested and brought to justice.

Because of these killings, we are sadly witnessing a growing callousness among our people, accepting these as a fact of life; for they say, these persons were after all drug addicts, and therefore they deserved to die! What is happening to us? Have we become so heartless that we cannot anymore feel for them, their families and those loved ones they have left behind?

To you, Mr. President and to our people, we say this:

We, the Bishop, Clergy, Religious and Lay Leaders of the Diocese of Legazpi are doing our best to help address the drug problem through peaceful and more compassionate ways other than killing. We have started HARONG PAGLAOM (House of Hope), which is a community-based rehabilitation program aimed at providing recovery coaching, spiritual guidance and life skills training to substance users, in collaboration with local government units, particularly the barangays. Through this modest but sincere effort, we not only want to help these returnees, but also assure them that in life there are second chances and the opportunity to do and be better.

We also encourage our parishes, schools as well as ecclesial communities to come together in study groups for prayer, discernment and concerted action, as we try to live out God’s call to us, i.e., to become a compassionate and merciful Church in the Diocese of Legazpi. Come and join us! Together we can make a difference and significantly reduce this disorder in our midst, and – more importantly – work for the betterment of the lives of our people especially the poor.

Above all, we offer this prayer for the enlightenment of us all. Starting on 27 November next, the First Sunday of Advent, at nine o’clock in the evening, and every night henceforth for as long as it will take, we will ring the bells of our churches and chapels to call our people to prayer, to ask God to bless us all with His grace of Mercy and Compassion. This prayer we call PRAYER AT NINE.

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