There is a bigger point being missed in this whole “debate” over the age of criminal liability in the Philippines. This point is around…
Why this idea is being debated to begin with
Indeed, in most normal societies, the idea of lowering the age of potential criminality to nine would not only shock most people, it would be extinguished long before it ignites past a twinkle in the eye of a congressman or member of parliament mulling the notion. Not in the Philippines, though. The number of legislators and, overall, members of the broader Filipino public willing to consider the proposal is quite significant so much so that four out of five columns in the Opinion section on the Inquirer today explores this quaint topic.
There is, therefore, reason to believe that Filipino children are different, or that Philippine society, in general, harbours a regard for their kids fundamentally different to more advanced societies where people trust a system that exempts kids from criminal liability.
Perhaps it could have something to do with a collective frustration over what could be the lack of a deep sense of accountability in Philippine society around the raising of kids. Let me explain. Use of condoms and other contraceptives are frowned upon by Filipinos so there is a higher than likely proportion of unwanted offspring being conceived. Abortion is illegal, so there will be a higher-than-normal proportion of unwanted kids being born. Divorce is illegal. So there will be a higher proportion of kids growing up in dysfunctional households. Many kids are half-parented by overseas foreign workers (OFWs) so many Filipinos will have been subject to sub-optimal parenting.
In short, Filipino children are raised by parents who are protected by thick layers of plausible deniability from accountability for the outcomes of their “parenting”.
Add to this the long-recognised characteristics of how Filipino kids are raised. They are taught what to think rather than how to think. Instead of being raised to be independent individuals, they are regarded as retirement nest eggs by their parents — potential sources of income well into their twilight years. Filipinos are either coddled by servants well into their late 20s or sent out to make a living on the streets and rice fields at nine years of age.
Put together the two — (1) kids as “blessings” or “curses” rather than choices and (2) medieval parenting once stuck with them and you get a people who see kids as acts of God and not one that sees kids as potential contributors to their society’s fortunes.
Perhaps this is the collective psychosis that underlies a society willing to consider treating kids as young as nine as criminals. If so, then shrieking about “questionable legislation” crafted by “evil” politicians is not the solution. The solution starts with a critical examination of the parenting infrastructure of Philippine society and its key pillars — a national religion that subjects people to children rather than encourages family planning, a tradition of intellectual bankruptcy that severely delays or degrades adult-level thinking in the youth, and short-sighted financial sensibilities that culminate in an enormous dependence on foreign employment and wage-crushing commoditisation of “in-demand” professions like nursing.
In short (again), there are deeper reasons why the idea to reduce the age of criminal liability actually catches wind and flies in the Philippines’ so-called “political debate”. This is where the Opposition, again, is an epic fail in its role as an intelligent challenge to a popular incumbent government. Rather than bring the debate to the core problems and issues, the Opposition’s pre-eminent “thought leaders” dumb it down at the altar of their clan agendas.
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