Jail is not a place for children, but under a new proposed Philippine law, the possibility of throwing kids as young as 9 years old in jail might become a possibility.
According to a report from Rappler, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s allies are pushing to pass a new proposed law that would amend the death penalty and “lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 9.”
Duterte, who won the presidential election in May is notorious when it comes to his campaign against criminals and illegal drugs that have overrun the country. He is also looking to close loopholes in the juvenile justice system which is apparently lenient regarding the use of minors in drug trafficking.
“Adult criminals knowingly and purposely make use of youth below 15 years of age to commit crimes, such as drug trafficking,” said Pantaleon Alvarez, one of those who are pushing to pass the law.
Although President Duterte aims to drop the age threshold to 12, his allies recommended a much lower age of nine.
Meanwhile, UNICEF was quick to remind the Philippines of its obligations. According to AFP (via AsiaOne), Manila is a state party to the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child, which means that criminal responsibility that is below the age of 12 is prohibited.
“Jail is no place for a child. It is alarming for children to be institutionalised (sent to a penal institution). It will be retrogression on the part of the Philippine Government.” Rights organisations launched a campaign called #ChildrenNotCriminals to urge lawmakers to reconsider their support for the law,” said a statement from UNICEF.
Many children’s rights advocates asked Duterte to explore factors as to why there are many children that are involved in crimes. They added that children should not be held accountable similar to adult offenders because they are “not fully mature.”
Since his electoral win, Duterte has faced many criticisms from local and international institutions like the UN and other human rights groups over his current backing of extrajudicial killings of drug traffickers and addicts.