UniTeam senatorial candidate is against lowering the age of criminal responsibility to 9 years old because “children are not born evil.”
Roque, a human rights lawyer, believed that children’s minds are still developing until the age of 15.
“Naniniwala po ako na dapat panindigan natin ang obligasyon natin sa, ‘yung karapatan ng mga kabataan,” Roque said.
“Naniniwala po ako na ang utak ng bata is still in the process of development until they hit at least the age of 15. Until that time, we should exert all efforts to reform and to show the right path to all children,” Roque said during the SMNI Senatorial debate on Wednesday.
According to UNICEF Philippines, studies show that brain function reaches maturity only at around 16 years old, affecting children’s reasoning and impulse control.
Proponents of the plan to lower the age of criminal responsibility believe that children as young as nine are criminally mature and are already capable of discernment.
The House of Representatives earlier moved to amend the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 or Republic Act 9344 and included the call to lower the age of criminal responsibility to 12 and even down to nine years old.
Roque, a member of the non-profit organization Onesimo which helps physically abused street children and their families in Manila, said rehabilitation could be done for these children and guided on an excellent path.
“It can be done po walang bata na pinanganak na masama ang budhi,” he said.
He sad his late aunt, retired judge and former prosecutor Lilia Lopez, was a pioneer in advocating for the rights of children in conflict with the law.
Roque said that Lopez had pushed for a separate detention center for children.