Lowering Criminal Liability to Age 9 or 12 Is Immoral

Manila Bulletin, February 1, 2019 | Go to article overview

Lowering Criminal Liability to Age 9 or 12 Is Immoral


PAPER VIEW

By ATTY. MEL STA. MARIA

In all issues involving children, our laws and the Supreme Court have consistently held that their paramount interest is the inflexible criterion. To place 9 or 12-year-old children under the public glare for committing an offense and potentially incarcerating them with hardened criminals is immoral, not serving any redemptive objective at all. It hopelessly ignores the rest of their possible productive long years on earth --- fatally derailing, if not completely negating, rehabilitation.

The ages of 9 and 12, according to scientific findings, are merely impressionable ages. While children may exhibit a high degree of intelligence at that point, their level of discernment is not yet fully developed. Thus a four-year old genius may be so intellectually precocious to be able to literally read Noli Me Tangere but, still, he/she may not fully grasp the subtext, messages or the emotional content of the events depicted in the novel.

In its official statement opposing the lowering of the age of criminal liability, the Philippine Pediatric Society said: "As drawn from theories of cognitive and moral development, children's discernment of right and wrong matures not only through education but also through the stages of their brain development. A younger child, for example, would not be able to fully anticipate all the possible consequences of their actions for themselves and society as a whole. An older child of 16 years is able to consider rules based on intention and outcome thus can make informed decisions especially when properly guided. This older comprehension of morality is able to take into account other groups of people and society as a whole. These stages are reached incrementally and it is impossible to conclude that an individual will have reached a certain level of cognition by a particular age. These stages of development highlight that while children may appear to identify right and wrong behavior, they lack an appreciation for why rules exist and the implications of these rules in the society. Younger children, therefore, need protection from the law and should not be held criminally responsible for their actions."

In other areas of life, an enlightened view has already emerged recognizing that children below 18 years do not possess the degree of maturity permitting them to make reasoned and deliberate decisions. …

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