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Make decisions on fact not ignorance

MANILA (SE): The tough stance on crime mouthed by incoming Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, may sound good, but it does not mean that the extreme measures he is proposing will do anything more than put a blindfold across a few blights in society.

In what has been described as a blatant disregard for the spirit of all law, as well as studies on the ability of children under 15 to discern right from wrong, Duterte is proposing to lower the age at which young people can be prosecuted as adults from 15 to 12.

Although this is not the first time this conversation has been introduced in The Philippines, the secretary to the Commission on Prison Ministry, Rodolfo Diamante, told CBCP News that when fiddling with people’s welfare, politicians should make their decisions on demonstrated factual evidence, not the perceptions of their own ignorance.

He added that a decision to lower the age could have dire consequences, saying that far from even being a quick fix to the perception that there has been a rise in crime among that age group, it would simply create a host of other problems.

Diamante said that crime among that age group is mostly limited to school dropouts and he described them as being victims who should be helped rather than culprits.

He pointed out that the real crime lies with the gangsters and syndicates that manipulate young children whose only real crime is being born poor. “They should go after those who are using children in criminal activities,” he said.

The manipulation of children by crime syndicates has been well documented over the years in the pages of the Sunday Examiner by social commentator, Father Shay Cullen.

Diamante is calling on the congress to do a rethink on this promise of the big-talking president-elect and look at the real situation of young children.

He pointed to two studies done on this issue.

In 1997, a study titled Beyond Innocence, conducted by the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, found that the age of discernment of in-school Filipino children is 15.

The Philippine Action for Youth and Offenders, a child rights network assisting children in conflict with the law, conducted similar research in 2002.

Its study, titled Arrested Development, targeted out-of-school youth who are the ones who figure in crimes, finding that their development is much slower than their compatriots in school, putting the age at 18.

“These studies validate that these minors don’t know what is right or wrong,” Diamante, who has worked in prison ministry for more than two decades, stressed.

“They should make decisions based on studies and not from their own observations,” he concluded.

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