MANILA, Philippines – Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray on Wednesday, February 20, said the country should "readjust" its focus and address the reasons why children commit crimes instead of lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility.
Catriona, the Philippines' fourth Miss Universe, is in Manila for a series of homecoming events to celebrate her December 2018 win. The welfare of children – particularly those living in impoverished and disadvantaged communities – is a cause Catriona has been active in, even before she was a Miss Universe candidate.
Philippine Congress plans to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12 years old. The House of Representatives has already approved the bill, while the Senate is expected to pass a similar measure.
"I worked a lot with children, and anyone knows that children are not disposed to do that kind of act...or to act that way. It's probably the circumstance of their environment or external pressures – whether it be from people or circumstance [that push children to commit crime]," Catriona told TV5's MJ Marfori in an interview.
The Fil-Aussie beauty queen added: "How can we do that? We can do that by doing a study or seeing the children and asking them or accessing that community, educating that community – the parents of the children. And I feel that would be a better long-term solution."
"Because once you label a child such...as a child in conflict with the law, how will you bring them up to see themselves or the community to see them?" she said.
She added that children should be "given the chance" to pursue their dreams – a line she's often uttered both in previous media interviews and even during the Miss Universe competition.
"'Cause children, they have so much potential. And their hearts are so pure. It's just that sometimes there [are] circumstances that bears down on them or the people or what they are faced with bears down on them," she added.
Catriona's grand homecoming parade is happening on Thursday, February 21. – Rappler.com