REJOINDER TO CSWCD STATEMENT ON Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility

| Written by CSWCD

On January 23, 2019 the House of Representatives decided to change its decision to lower the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility from 9 years old to 12 years old, in the light of strong objections from various sectors including the UP College of Social Work and Community Development that presented a position paper against the lowering of the MACR to 9 years of age. 

The President and some senators have even expressed their comfort to changing the MACR to 12 years of age. Child development specialists however see little difference between a 9-year-old and a 12-year-old.  The age range between 9 to 14 years is the stage wherein there is an overlap between the pre-adolescent and adolescent stage. In this stage, the individual is still in the process of constructing his/her own identity.  This is the stage which, according to developmental psychologist pioneer Dr. Erik Erikson, the child is faced with the questions of, “Who I am” and “Who do I want to be?”.  The child in this age range cannot be considered an adult who acts with discernment because he/she is still trying to make sense of his/her personhood in relation to others.  The capacity of adequate reality testing, judgement and moral discernment is not yet fully developed at this age.

Furthermore, we reiterate that children who come in conflict with the law often are victims themselves as they come from poor neighborhoods, and dysfunctional families and are often influenced or coerced by powerful adults such as their parents, criminal syndicates and sometimes even the police. These children to a large extent are victims of social evils created by adults, rather than the perpetrators. Thus, changing the term “Minimum Age of Social Responsibility”, which is being suggested instead of “Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility” is equally inaccurate. Why are we asking these vulnerable young people to pay for our society’s failures in fulfilling our adult responsibilities to them?

As social workers, community development and social development workers we oppose the move to change the age Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility (MACR) to 12 years old. We also oppose the cosmetic change of MACR to Minimum Age of Social Responsibility.

We call on our legislators and other policy makers to listen to the evidence, to science and to the experts so that we may have more enlightened and effective social policies.