The age of criminal responsibility and our need to be parents

Whether we accept it or not, the lowering if the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12 raises a lot of questions- not about government, but about how we devalue laws by not implementing them properly, and the state of parenting in our society and how the lack of it has created the high numbers if delinquency and crime, both reported and unreported. The problem is that the specific statistics saying that crimes by minors are low - because most go unreported. Without data, we are left with an unclear reality that does not empower us to push the right programs to address rising juvenile delinquency. But we gained two things as a result of this debate: we have urgently reviewed the Juvenile Justice Act and how it has failed to curb crime by children, forcing us to take a good look at our propensity to enact many nice sounding laws we are unable to fully implement. We have also understood that many countries have a much lower age of criminal responsibility and have responded to it with the right programs. For them, "catch and release" of minors has not worked, hence tgey maintain a low minimum age. More importantly, it pushes society to take a second look at parenting and how vital a pillar it is in shaping young minds and hearts- away from rising crime and delinquency.

Given the rising tide of marriage less arrangements and separations, we can see how many children are brought into a world without the benefit of proper parents- or parenting. Often, circumstances force these children to drift from one version of permissive and patronizing extended family to another, facing an uncertain future- and a weak foundation in themselves. Many become flimflam members of society, prone to its indiscretions and abuses, eventually ending up in a life of crime or substance dependency.

In most cases, a consistent,loving parenting presence imposing proper discipline has saved them from such a fate. But examples of such are few.

Instead, we have heard enough stories of parents prostituting their children or using them as drug couriers to eacape prosecution. That we have had enough minors were involved in criminal activity is no small number and must never be downplayed by anyone, not especially childrens rights groups. These advocates should instead work for the proper implementation of justice, and not work for us to avoid it.

In the end, lowering the age if criminal responsibility forces parents to be parents, and asks all of us to be parents to all our children- to be, as the African proverb says, that village where our children- our future is properly raised.

Photo: DepEd Philippines