Having a lawyer for a waifu makes life very interesting. Every now and then I find out about administrative, civil, and criminal cases that can be anywhere between novel and exciting. I also get from her, some strong opinions about the law which can really make me think about things. One of these things I often think about is how significant percentages of anime shows’ casts are kids. While I accept that this can be due to the fact that the shows and merchandise are marketed to young people, I wonder about real world implications of having the fate of the world in the hands of children.
While I can’t fully explore this subject in a singular post, I can take it to a sinister direction: Where I live, under current laws, children are not held criminally liable. It is quite possible to raise an army of children killers. If not that, a Johan Liebert can and will get away with murder.
Here is an excerpt of the law in question:
Republic Act No. 9344
AN ACT ESTABLISHING A COMPREHENSIVE JUVENILE JUSTICE AND WELFARE SYSTEM, CREATING THE JUVENILE JUSTICE AND WELFARE COUNCIL UNDER THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, APPROPRIATING FUNDS THEREFOR AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Philippines in Congress assembled:
TITLE, POLICY AND DEFINITION OF TERMS
Section 1. Short Title and Scope. – This Act shall be known as the “Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006.” It shall cover the different stages involving children at risk and children in conflict with the law from prevention to rehabilitation and reintegration.
SEC. 2. Declaration of State Policy. – The following State policies shall be observed at all times:
(a) The State recognizes the vital role of children and youth in nation building and shall promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual and social well-being. It shall inculcate in the youth patriotism and nationalism, and encourage their involvement in public and civic affairs.
(b) The State shall protect the best interests of the child through measures that will ensure the observance of international standards of child protection, especially those to which the Philippines is a party. Proceedings before any authority shall be conducted in the best interest of the child and in a manner which allows the child to participate and to express himself/herself freely. The participation of children in the program and policy formulation and implementation related to juvenile justice and welfare shall be ensured by the concerned government agency.
Alright. It sounds really good so far, totally in the direction of protecting the rights and welfare of children. By children, the law means,
(e) “Child” refers to a person under the age of eighteen (18) years.
Hmmm, Nena Trinity at age 17 randomly fired beam weapons at a wedding in Spain in the first season of Gundam 00 – killing many. She is then a child murderer. Gundam Meisters aren’t necessarily children, it’s more like Veda doesn’t discriminate against them. Setsuna was 14 upon joining Celestial Being, and was a child soldier with a kill count including both of his own parents. More about this later. Right now we’re getting to the meat of what makes R. A. 9344 interesting.
SEC. 6. Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility. – A child fifteen (15) years of age or under at the time of the commission of the offense shall be exempt from criminal liability. However, the child shall be subjected to an intervention program pursuant to Section 20 of this Act.
A child above fifteen (15) years but below eighteen (18) years of age shall likewise be exempt from criminal liability and be subjected to an intervention program, unless he/she has acted with discernment, in which case, such child shall be subjected to the appropriate proceedings in accordance with this Act.
The exemption from criminal liability herein established does not include exemption from civil liability, which shall be enforced in accordance with existing laws.
Under this section, Nena is liable for blasting a wedding, but Soran (Setsuna) is not liable for murdering his parents. I don’t know what to make of this, honestly. But if Nena can be prosecuted and punished like a criminal (albeit protected from capital punishment and lifetime imprisonment), what’s in store for Setsuna?
SEC. 20. Children Below the Age of Criminal Responsibility. – If it has been determined that the child taken into custody is fifteen (15) years old or below, the authority which will have an initial contact with the child has the duty to immediately release the child to the custody of his/her parents or guardian, or in the absence thereof, the child’s nearest relative. Said authority shall give notice to the local social welfare and development officer who will determine the appropriate programs in consultation with the child and to the person having custody over the child. If the parents, guardians or nearest relatives cannot be located, or if they refuse to take custody, the child may be released to any of the following: a duly registered nongovernmental or religious organization; a barangay official or a member of the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC); a local social welfare and development officer; or when and where appropriate, the DSWD. If the child referred to herein has been found by the Local Social Welfare and Development Office to be abandoned, neglected or abused by his parents, or in the event that the parents will not comply with the prevention program, the proper petition for involuntary commitment shall be filed by the DSWD or the Local Social Welfare and Development Office pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 603, otherwise ,known as “The Child and Youth Welfare Code”.
So basically, I can set up and duly register a nongovernmental organization (since Setsuna’s parents are no longer with us), I can be the legal guardian of Setsuna. No punishment. The law will trust me to set him straight and make him a productive member of society. Hmmm, I think I’ll call this organization Celestial Being. Is it really this easy? Atty. Waifu seems to think so. And I think I’m a little disturbed by it.
- The Marduk Institute/NERV (Neon Genesis Evangelion): While this agency picks out the children with a view of weeding out bad seeds, the final determinant will still be the synchronicity ratio with an Evangelion unit. So theoretically, a criminal child will find a permissive home in this agency.
- The Geass Cult (Code Geass): The finest example here would be Rolo ‘Lamperouge’. This organization does not have a conscience. Rolo can bring his quarry to Manila and commit murder with impunity.
- The KGB (Full Metal Panic): Their child soldier program produced Sagara Sosuke, deployed at approximately age 8. Arguably, Mithril also counts. After all, Tessa Testarossa is the submarine captain at age 16.
- Kinderheim 511 (Monster): A suppossed orphanage for boys is actually a facility for a super-soldier program. It produced a very notable specimen in Johan Liebert.
- Super Soldier Program (Gundam 00): The Human Reform League’s eugenics program to design the ultimate fighters from scratch. Produced Soma Peires and Allelujah Haptism. Arguably, Celestial Being also belongs in this list, because proficiency in piloting determines qualification for becoming a Gundam Meister. They don’t seem to discriminate against age.
- The Northern Government Army (Xam’d: Lost Memories): Their Humanform soldiers can be very young children. Their opponents, based on Sentan Island, recruit high-schoolers.
- A. E. G. I. S. (Gate Keepers): The organization relies on the powers of Gate Keepers to suppress the aliens. In this case, it’s really more like happenstance that the individuals with powers are high school students.
- Wammy’s House (Death Note): Watari’s institute for genuiuses. It produced L. It can be considered, because even if the purpose is to solve crimes – an element like Mello can be very dangerous.
- The Topless (Gunbuster 2): The powers of the pilots of the Buster Machines are contingent to their biological adolescence.
I’m sure there are more, but those are what I came up with. I did not want to include shows that I haven’t seen, but you are most welcome to add to this list.
A bit of reality, if Wikipedia is to be believed:
- The Philippines – Children are recruited by rebel forces, including the New People’s Army, Abu Sayyaf Group, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. An estimated 13 percent of the 10,000 soldiers in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front are children. Child recruitment is also reported by some paramilitary forces linked to the government.
The New People’s Army gave up the use of child soldiers, and instituted a minimum age of 16, acting as couriers, medical volunteers and members of education and propaganda units while 18 is the more preferred age to become members of the force.
It happens far more often in Africa. Read the entry for a more complete list. I don’t think I have the moral qualifications (whatever they are) to comment authoritatively on this subject. Nonetheless I feel that there is a danger in seriously reducing the sanctions for children. I’m no expert in sanctions as deterrents to crime discussions, but I do know that human behavior is determined by incentives and sanctions. Having less sanctions makes it much easier for anyone with malice in their hearts to utilize children for truly destructive ends.
But it does engage me as a fan of anime. What do we make of this? Our fates are in the hands of kids! How young was Simon when he saved the world for the first time?