Child Rights Network: Catriona Gray speaks more sense than Panelo on criminal liability age

MANILA, Philippines – Child Rights Network thanked Catriona Gray for speaking up on moves to lower the age of criminal responsibility in Philippines, saying that the beauty queen “speaks more sense” on the controversial issue than the presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

Gray on February 20 said that instead of lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility, the country should address the reasons why children commit crimes. (READ: Think twice about lowering age of criminal responsibility – Catriona Gray)

"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]," she said in an interview with TV5.

On February 21, Panelo said that Gray may have been “misinformed of the facts given that the opposition to the lowering comes from ‘yung mga dating kritiko ng administration (the critics of the administration).” (READ: Panelo says Catriona Gray may be 'misinformed' about bill on criminal liability age)

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.

Child Rights Network, an alliance of child rights advocates and groups in the Philippines, addressed Panelo in a February 23 statement, saying: “with all due respect, Mr. Panelo, no, Catriona is not misguided. In fact, it may be you and your cohorts who are.”

“Mr. Panelo rehashed the argument that under the proposed lowering of MACR, criminality will be addressed and that in fact, children in conflict with the law will not be put to jail,” they said.

They also said that the proposal exposes how the police force is incapable or unwilling to target the “real criminals” – the big drug and crime syndicates.

They added: “We take heavy exception from Mr. Panelo’s branding of opposition against the lowering of the MACR as mere opposition coming from their perceived political opponents. The opposition of child rights advocates who actually work with children in conflict with the law is grounded on facts, not snide political muckraking.”

The group also thanked Gray for “amplifying the message that we have long been telling both houses of Congress – that children in conflict with the law are victims of circumstance, and thus need to undergo an age-appropriate justice system that gives them a second chance in life.”

“Unlike many of our legislators, Catriona let her critical thinking and her own experience guide her opinion on the matter. Perhaps her experience of a community-based approach in addressing lack of child support reflects how she truly considers the best interest of children,” they said.

The reigning Miss Universe has been a longtime advocate of education for impoverished youth. She has been working with Young Focus Philippines, a group that helps put kids from the underprivileged areas of Tondo to school. – Rappler.com