“We are very much enraged! The Duterte government has been consistently violating children’s rights from poverty, neglect of social services, ‘Oplan Tokhang’ to incarceration of children in conflict with the law and now they are militarizing schools and teaching children and youth to be blind followers.”
By JOHN AARON MARK MACARAEG
MANILA – Advocates voiced out their opposition to bills they deemed as violating children’s rights.
Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns maintained that the proposed lowering of the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) and the mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) for senior high school violate children’s rights and would put children in further danger.
In a press conference in Quezon City, May 28, Eule Rico Bonganay, Salinlahi Alliance for Chidlren’s Concerns secretary general said, “We are very much enraged! The Duterte government has been consistently violating children’s rights from poverty, neglect of social services, ‘Oplan Tokhang’ to incarceration of children in conflict with the law and now they are militarizing schools and teaching children and youth to be blind followers.”
The lowering of MACR from 15 years old to 12 has been approved by the House of Representatives on third on final reading. The House also approved on third and final reading the bill making ROTC mandatory in senior high school.
‘Not nationalism but blind obedience’
The mandatory ROTC for the Grades 11 and 12 or the House Bill 8961 states that it is aimed to instill patriotism, love of country, moral and spiritual virtues, and respect for human rights and adherence to the Constitution. Rights groups disagree.
Bonganay said the mandatory ROTC promotes blind obedience.
For Clarice Palce, an 18-year old student from Polytechnic University of the Philippines, ROTC will only pave way for the military forces to infiltrate schools and will result in abuses.
The group pointed out there were murder cases linked to the ROTC such as the death of Mark Welson Chua, a University of Santo Tomas student who died in 2001 due to hazing, and Willy Amihoy, a graduating ROTC cadet at Iloilo State College in Fisheries, who was killed inside the comfort room allegedly by his own corps commander in March this year.
Palce added that military presence in schools will violate academic freedom and other democratic rights of the youth.
Meanwhile, Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas questioned why the legislators are fast tracking the lowering of MACR while there is an already existing law that concerns the children in conflict with the law, the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act.
Brosas said the law should be implemented, particularly those provisions dealing with rehabilitation of children in conflict with the law (CICL).She lamented that the facilities for CICL are like prisons not fit for children.
The proposed bill, she said, would not make things better for CICL.