[Blueboard] Minimum age for criminal liability

Office of the President [OP] president at ateneo.edu
Wed Jan 25 16:53:01 PHT 2017

​[image: Inline image 1]

25 January 2017

Memo to         :           The University Community

Subject            :           Minimum age for criminal liability

Today, 25 January 2017, the House of Representatives Sub-Committee on
Correctional Reforms held a closed-door meeting to discuss the bills which
seek to lower the minimum age for criminal liability from 15 years old to a
mere nine years old. Subsequently, the sub-committee decided to convene a
technical working group to deliberate on the issue further.

The possibility of holding a nine-year old criminally liable finds its
roots in the Revised Penal Code which was passed in 1930. Congress is
contemplating returning to an outdated standard set almost 90 years ago.

Such a retreat would ignore decades worth of research in child and
adolescent development, psychology, neurobiology and the social sciences.

You don’t even have to be a neuroscientist to know that "children are not
little adults." Children and adolescent brains, particularly the areas
dealing with impulse control, decision-making and long-term planning, are
still in the process of formation. Alongside the neurological changes is
the development of a child’s conscience, which is also constantly growing.

Given that a child’s development, both physically and emotionally, is still
in flux, it would be foolish to hold children to the same standard as
adults. Placing children in the same facilities as adults (as it was under
the old law), subverts whatever hope we have for reform and rehabilitation.

Fortunately, current Philippine law takes pains to focus on the
rehabilitation of children in conflict with the law instead of
incarcerating them. Even when adolescents are jailed they are required to
be held in separate facilities from adult offenders. The current state of
the law reflects a progressive understanding of child and adolescent
development. It balances the needs of justice alongside the equally
pressing need to provide an opportunity for a child to develop and grow to
become a productive member of society.

The law does not need to be changed. Let us spend more energy and resources
on getting children educated, raised in homes of love and safety, capable
of entering the workforce in adulthood. Let us invest ourselves instead in
providing all Filipino children with what they need to flourish and

The University does not support lowering the minimum age of criminal
liability. As an institution tasked in the formation of young people, as an
institution that takes care of students as young as six years old, we
vehemently oppose such a move to criminalize children. The Ateneo de Manila
will be more than glad to work with our legislators in sharing our
knowledge based on the research and work that we do with children.

We remember Christ’s affection for the little ones and we take to heart his
admonition to the grown-ups: “Let the little children come to me, and do
not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven

Let us take our children to school. Let us accompany them to God. Let us
not bring them to jail.


Jose Ramon T Villarin SJ


Office of the President
Ateneo de Manila University
Katipunan Avenue, Loyola Heights,
Quezon City 1108
Tel No: 63 (02) 426 6001
Fax No: 63 (02) 426 6079

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