This ongoing move to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) to nine, then later 12, is breaking my heart. I’m a mother and I take my parenting seriously. If I may use the colloquial Pinoy term, “kinareer” ko ang pagiging magulang when I decided to be a full-time homemaker while our sons were very young.
All these politico moves to give in to the leader’s whim to lower the MACR to a very young age is devoid of the most basic knowledge in parenting, human behavior, and science!
Let me make it clear. There is no debate about the need to solve the problem of crimes being committed by minors as young as nine or 12 or even younger. We are all united in this. Before writing this article, I read the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act of 2006 and the proposed amendments of our “honorable” Senator and valedictorian of Iskul Bukol University in order to see what we already have and what they want amended. (I’m providing the links below for those interested to read.)
Basically, the proposed amendments want to reduce the MACR and thus, lower the age level at which a minor who breaks the law is treated just like any other criminal. They started off with a single digit age – nine – for the shock value probably, then later on said, “Okay let’s move it up to 12” using the anchoring effect. (To read more about this Behavioral Economics principle, click Anchoring Effect)
Let’s tackle the science first because that’s easily explainable. When it comes to behavior, we should understand the two main systems of our brain: the limbic system and the pre-frontal cortex.
The limbic system is responsible for our emotional functions.
The pre-frontal cortex is responsible for our rational decision-making. It allows us to differentiate among conflicting thoughts, determine good and bad, better and best, same and different, predict future consequences of current actions, work towards defined goals, act in accordance with social norms, and perform complex cognitive functions.
While the limbic system is what is largely used from the time we are born, our pre-frontal cortex is not fully developed until we reach the age of 18; hence the age of reason! This alone should have been enough to stop any talk about the lowering of MACR to nine or 12.
Now I wonder, are the pre-frontal cortex of those who voted to reduce the MACR fully developed? 😔 You see, the pre-frontal cortex is the part of our brain that is able to see beyond the short-term gratification. When it is working properly, it is able to act in accordance with its values, regulate the emotional limbic system in order to achieve long-term goals that are for the good of the society.
Parenting and Human Behavior
Any parent worthy of the title knows that a child’s behavior is the former’s responsibility while the latter is still a minor.
When our child misbehaves, we look into the root cause of the misbehavior. For the little ones, is he hungry, wet, colic, in pain? As he gets older, we teach the consequence of actions.
Fast forward to tween and teenage years, the years when they try to be independent from their parents, experiment on new things, find their own identity, become influenced by peers, want to belong yet want to stand out, become interested in sex, and face many more developmental issues in our connected yet disconnected society.
It is tough. And parents know all too well that punishment is not enough to keep their once-upon-a-time sweet innocent babies as good citizens. We should not focus on punishment but on prevention.
There are many factors that affect juvenile misbehavior. These are unhealthy family life, poor school attendance, violence at home and in community, peer pressure, financial issues, substance abuse, lack of moral guidance, even boredom.
You know what, I bet that support for good parenting will solve the problem of juvenile delinquency better than lowering the MACR. I think even an out- of-this-world legislation to require parenting license before one can have a child may even be more effective than lowering the MACR! 😊
What happens if we lower the MACR?
Rehabilitation will be more difficult as the minor offenders are now labeled as criminals. The power of identity cannot be overemphasized here. Where do you think your child will have better chances of still having a good life after getting in conflict with the law at a tender age? If it’s not in your own home with your family, then maybe the problem is with your family. In which case, there are measures to address this. And it is definitely not lowering the MACR.
If you read the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 (link provided below), it is not allowing minors who break the law scot-free. There are measures in place to address the offense. It is just careful in handling the minor offender because of the fact that they have not yet fully developed in terms of maturity. They are still answerable to their offenses but the measures are more geared to helping than punishing.
May just ask each solon to imagine his/her child, or grandchild, or anyone dear to him/her, or better yet imagine himself/herself when he/she was in that tender young age of nine or 12? What were you doing at that age? What were you capable of? Imagine yourself or your loved one who is nine or 12 being thrown in jail, going through the terrible process of our criminal justice system. Are you okay with that? If your answer is yes, then maybe it’s because you know that you are well connected anyway, that you and your loved ones can get away with heinous crimes like raping a minor, engaging in corruption, and other karumal-dumal crimes!
Sometimes it’s exhausting to watch how things are happening in our country. Yes, we still experience economic growth, but what structures are we putting in place for our children? We see poor kids killed on the streets, or their parents killed in front of them because of this rabid obsession to implement “drug war.” We see our leaders curse, not in private but in public, during official speeches, insult people who disagree with them, curse even God, and everything’s okay? No this is not okay!
If you want your “vote” heard by our lawmakers, write to them. They are in office to represent our values and enact laws for our welfare. There is a petition you can sign if you believe that lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility is not the answer to solving juvenile crimes. (Click https://www.change.org/p/no-to-lowering-the-minimum-age-of-criminal-responsibility-in-the-philippines)
I’m sorry if I am too passionate about this matter. I will not sit down and take in justifications such as, “If you’re able to raise your children well, then you should not worry!” Actually, my sons are all past this tween ages, but the thought of how they were at ages nine or 12 and imagining them suffering from a flawed law like the one being proposed still makes me sick in the stomach. I actually teared up in the process of imagining this. I hope all of you my dear readers, regardless of your political leanings, would take just a few minutes to reflect on what havoc this amendment can create to our society in the long-term. It is our responsibility as Filipinos to have our voice heard on this matter.
I wanted to end this piece with the quote, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” but I will tweak it a bit because I don’t want to sound self-righteous. And so I end with, “Bad things happen if we do nothing about them, just because we are not directly affected. In the end, we get the society that we deserve.”
- If you haven’t listened to our Episode 4 of Mom and Son Podcast, you may click any of the following links below. Our topic this week is “What Were You Doing at 9 & 12 Years Old?”
- Watch for our FQwentuhan with Dr. Honey Carandang, our country’s top child psychologist. We will further discuss the repercussions of lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility.
- If you want to read the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act of 2006 and the proposed amendments, click the following links:
- To help you understand your relationship with money and have a high FQ, get your copy of FQ: The nth Intelligence
You may purchase the book in major bookstores in the country, or online shops. For autographed copies, please go to FQ Mom FB page (click SHOP), or FQMom.com (click BOOKS), or email us at FQMomm@gmail.com
- Want to know where your FQ stands? Take the FQ Test Challenge now! Click link. http://rebrand.ly/FQTest
Rose Fres Fausto is a writer and speaker on money and family. She wrote Raising Pinoy Boys and The Retelling of The Richest Man in Babylon (English and Filipino versions), FQ: The nth Intelligence. Click this link to read samples – Books of FQ Mom. She is a Behavioral Economist, Certified Gallup Strengths Coach and the grand prize winner of the first Sinag Financial Literacy Digital Journalism Awards. Follow her on Facebook & YouTube as FQ Mom, and Twitter & Instagram as theFQMom.
ATTRIBUTIONS: Photos from blogclan-2.wikia.com, dxshare.cf, strokeconnection.strokeassociation.org, understood.org, Suriana Welfare Society Malaysia modified and used to help deliver the message of the article.