Cagayan de Oro – Balaod Mindanaw, in partnership with the Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation, held a forum entitled “Criminalizing the Child: A Forum on Lowering the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility” last September 29 at De Luxe Hotel.
This one-day forum was attended by over 100 participants coming from various organizations, city officials, and institutions in Cagayan de Oro City. As part of the coalition behind the #ChildrenNotCriminals campaign towards strengthening the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, this forum aims to gather the stand from different stakeholders and inform people of the importance of proper implementation of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act.
It kicked off with the discussion of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act by Balaod Mindanaw Executive Director, Atty. Normie Batula, which also gave further recommendations on how to fully reinforce the law such as separating minors from adult criminals and giving separate and severe penalties for the syndicates and for adults coercing and using children.
After introducing the entire scope of the JJWA among the participants a representative from the Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation, Inc. gave an overview of the updates regarding the previously proposed amendments that seek to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) as well as the existing campaign to strengthen the law.
The first set of reactors was given the chance to address their position and statements regarding the topic. Atty. Irene Meso from the Regional Prosecutor Office of DOJ Region X opposes the lowering of the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 years old to 9. According to her, 9 years old is way too young and thinks that the law was not yet been fully implemented. Another member of the set of reactors is Mr. Sean Llenos, One CDO Convener of CSG Office from Xavier University also expressed his dismay with the notion to lower the MACR. The Dean of the College of Law of Xavier University, Atty. Sylvia Jo Sabio also shows her support in the campaign and said to first determine the best course of action to take before making some amendments. Lastly, Michael Christopher Fabello, Division Head, Center of Institutions, City Social Welfare Development Office disclosed some of the problems why the law was not yet been fully implemented such as the insufficient allocation of budget for the construction of Bahay Pag-Asa. Fabello also said that he is against the lowering of MACR.
Another set of reactors during the afternoon session also gave their stand on the issue. Teddy Sabuga Jr. OIC of the CSWDO discussed his stand and even cite examples which he said is one of the reasons why the children are getting involved in committing crimes. Yolanda Templa, a social worker of the Calabrian Children’s Foundation also showed her support for the campaign by sharing her experiences with the handling of children in the institution. Threjann Ace Noli, RSW MPA SWO IV, Division Chief of Social Protection, CSWD disclosed their move towards reinforcing the parental responsibility and they also oppose the lowering of MACR. The next member, CHR Atty. Roschelle B. Dagaraga-Bagas Attorney V and Hacelyn Barrero from RJJWC and representative of Councilor Reuben Daba, read statements coming from their respective offices which address support to the campaign.
The open forum formally started after all the reactors stated their opinions and support. A lot of questions were raised during the forum coming from the voices of different personalities and representatives of each organization including participants from youth organizations. The set of reactors managed to answer all the questions and concerns during the forum as well as other government officials who were present during the forum. A representative from BALAOD Mindanaw delivered the synthesis of the forum as well as the ways forward which were agreed by the attendees.
The launching of videos served as the finale of the forum. The two videos containing an infographic and a documentary of the life of a CICL were introduced to the participants which is a part of the video launching activity that was simultaneously done in different parts of the country. The communications officer of HLAF also took the opportunity to introduce other programs of the organization to the participants.
To show their support to the campaign, participants made statements of support for the campaign and take a photo opportunity together with the facilitators and organizers of the forum. This event was also covered by a local media network and even interviewed some of the participants about their stand on the issue.