Press Release
February 16, 2017


*Statement of Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros delivered on the #ChildrenNotCriminals National Press Conference, February 16, 2017, Sulo Riviera Hotel, Quezon City

"Lowering the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 9 is a death sentence to our children. By treating children in conflict with the law as hardened criminals, they could either end up dead in the hands of extrajudicial killers or the state. They will become targets of vigilante death squads, which have already killed thousands of Filipinos or land on death row if a lowered age of criminal liability is combined with the death penalty law. Either way, they could end up dead. The government will condemn our children to a dark and sinister future with no second chance at rehabilitation.

"Of course some lawmakers, mainly those from the House of Representatives, will argue that they have no intention to create "death row kids" and that their proposal to reimpose the death penalty excludes minors. However, in the Senate, a simple review of the proposed death penalty laws reveals that none of the proposed measures have a provision exempting below 18 year olds from capital punishment. Even if they argue that children in conflict with the law are protected from death penalty under the Juvenile Justice Law, the passage of both the death penalty law and a much lowered age of criminal liability could supersede the Juvenile Justice Law. Assuming without conceding that it is a remote possibility, why would we even risk such a scenario and place our children in such a dire situation in the first place?

"If the government is really sincere in addressing the problem of children in conflict with the law, then the better alternative is to strengthen and fully implement the existing Juvenile Justice Law. It is more sustainable, humane and cost-effective.

"It's time for the Duterte government to stop its fixation with regressive law enforcement measures and obsession with death.

"We must offer hope not death. Our children must not be delivered into the hands of extrajudicial killers or its judicial counterpart, the deadly combination of a lowered age of criminal liability and death penalty. If we are to pursue real justice, we have to understand its truest sense offers not just punishment but accountability, and a chance for reparations and rehabilitation."

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