September 15, 2011
The proposal to criminalize child offenders by lowering the prescribed minimum age of criminal responsibility, now at 15 under the Juvenile Justice Act, is a cure worse than the disease, the labor group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) said in a statement.
“The proposal puts the blame to our kids rather than to our state leaders who failed to address the chronic problem of poverty that fuels the growing sense of hopelessness among our young people,” said PM secretary general Judy Ann Miranda.
According to Miranda, the intent of the Juvenile Justice Act was very clear and to some extent, comprehensive. It mandates the state not only to recognize and protect the rights of our children against unnecessary criminal liabilities but also in taking charge of their welfare through a comprehensive program. It even defined the roles of specific government agencies down to the level of barangay tanods in implementing the program.
“The very fact that these kids have mastered the streets rather than the school already explains a lot about this problem. Poor street kids don’t play with the law. They play with their adversities in life,” stressed Miranda.
The labor group said getting involved in juvenile crimes is the downside of our youth’s development owing to the harsh economic conditions their young age has to face because of poverty. Unfortunately in this country, corrupt state officials have no moral ascendancy to penalize the young for law breaking.
“In an ideal setup, children 15 years and below should be in values, literacy and numeracy training in schools. And between 15-24 age bracket, they should be honing their skills in transition to the world of work,” explained Miranda.
Miranda added that those who were involved in petty street crimes, the ‘hamog boys’ and ‘jumper boys’ alike, were basically the poor children ‘who got lost in this transition’ because the state has failed to prepare them academically and technically into the world of work.
According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), there are about 2.4 million “working children” in the Philippines and they are mostly involved in “hazardous” type of work, including mining and illicit activities such as drug trafficking and prostitution.
Furthermore, Partido ng Manggagawa revealed that problems of unemployment and precarious working conditions also await our young people. Based on the 2008 Labor Force Survey, unemployment rate is higher under age 25, at 49.64% of the total unemployed.
Majority of young workers likewise comprise the so-called “rotating worker” or “endo” worker (end of contract) who shifts from one contractual employment to another. This is rampant in export zones and service industry including the BPO, and now creeping into the aviation industry with the massive contractualization scheme being implemented at the Philippine Airlines.