Editor’s Note: When MB Life published the story, You can actually vote to veto the proposal to lower the age of criminal responsibility, reader Joanni Bulandi left a comment on our Facebook thread narrating her personal experiences with street children aged 4-12 years old. “Hindi po sila mangmang. Alam nila ang tama at mali…Maybe try going around these low income communities so you know?” a portion of her comment read. We got in touch with her to hear why she is in favor of the proposal. Below is what she has to say, edited for clarity.
It isn’t so much the lowering of the age criminal responsibility that I am in favor of, as it is the government actually doing something concrete about the problem of petty crime. And because so far, this proposal is the most concrete step from the government, then I am all for it.
A 9-year-old who grew up in the street has a different maturity level from a 9-year-old who grew up in a sheltered house. The former knows the ins and out of crime—they know this even before they turn 7.
And I know this because in Cubao, where I live, there is a group of children, about 4-12 years old, who tells me these things. They tell me about, say, how the drug business is run in their community some three to four blocks away from me. They hang around my food stall; sometimes we give them food, and when we do, they become even more behaved around me. They tell me everything.
They’re actually good children. They know what’s right from wrong, and they know what they’re doing. They make a living—pagpapaparking—but when they hang out as a group, they can get pretty destructive. Sometimes they destroy private property, sometimes, public property. They don’t commit violent crimes, no. But they can get pretty destructive.
These children aren’t afraid of the Barangay Tanods. They know they’re too young to be charged with crime; they know the Tanods will only run after them. They think it’s fun when they’re being chased. They know they will be let go, anyway.
They tell me this is exactly why they don’t like wearing slippers: nadadapa kasi sila when they do. There really isn’t anybody they are afraid of. Wala talaga silang kinatatakutan.
I asked them once, “paano kung ikulong kayo?” They answered me, “eh di sa bahay na lang kami ate. Walang magtutubos sa amin.”
And this is why I’m in favor of the proposal. I believe they need a law that will actually threaten them to stop doing bad things. If the government won’t start implementing a lower age for crime, if you only want to impose “guidance,” tell me: Who do you suggest for these children to get guidance from? Their parents aren’t there most of the time. Their lolas? Nangangalakal, din. And children without parents—how about them?
They need something to prevent them from doing illegal things. Some start a life of crime thinking pickpocketing is just play. Laro lang naman, they’d say. When they get caught, it’s still fun for them because they like being chased. And then they grow up with this hobby, and next thing you know, it’s not just pickpocketing anymore.
While the government isn’t doing anything, these children will feel like they are free to do anything. So there must be a concrete law that will hold them accountable for the crime, that will hold them and/or their guardian accountable.
A concrete plan from the government is what I am in favor of. The lowering of age of criminal responsibility is the most concrete step that the government has taken, and that is why I am supporting it.
Maybe try going around these very low income communities so you will know?
Illustration: Madel Crudo