A bill that was passed by the House of Representatives this week must rank as one of the worst pieces of legislation ever.
For now, it’s only a bill, but unless legislators of sound mind take action, it may be railroaded into law soon enough. This is because the bill that lowers the age of criminal liability from the current 15 to nine has the full support of President Rodrigo Duterte.
It is wrong on so many levels, and the poor excuses offered by the lawmakers who support it only makes it worse. They say that the law actually protects minors as separate facilities will be provided for them once they are convicted.
In any language, a prison is a prison is a prison, and no nine-year-old should ever have to be treated like a common criminal and incarcerated. No matter what crime is committed by a nine-year-old, he or she does not deserve imprisonment because he/she cannot be judged as being of sound mind.
Yes, there are poor kids who are forced by evil adults to commit crimes. The example most cited is their being used as couriers or mules for drugs. This happens not only in the Philippines, but all over the world where the drug menace is rampant.
In passing the law, local congressmen are practically admitting that the Duterte regime has failed totally in its drug war and the situation is actually worsening rather than improving. Resorting to such extreme measures as lowering the bar tells us that the mass executions of suspected drug users and pushers has not been an effective deterrent.
The lame argument of the lawmakers can be reduced to the ridiculous.
Why stop at age nine? Why not eight or seven or six? Heck, why not lower it further to five, or four or three?
You know where this is going. If an impoverished mother places sachets of shabu on her baby’s diaper, by the same logic of the local congressmen that baby is as guilty as any adult who willfully carries drugs for sale in his person.
A representative for the Unicef said it best. To quote LottaSylander, “Lowering the age of criminal responsibility will not deter adult offenders from abusing children to commit crimes.”
Just how brutal drug syndicates can be is known to law enforcers worldwide.
In truth, there is no absolute way to end the drug menace, but there are extremely effective deterrents. A look at some of the Philippines’ neighboring countries shows the examples that we can follow, but which the Duterte administration has conveniently ignored.
It is all but impossible to buy drugs in such countries as Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, among others. This is because anyone involved in the illegal drug trade will almost certainly be caught, tried and executed without exception.
Those last two words are the key. The law is strict and is enforced equally.
Here in the Philippines under Duterte, the biggest drug lords are still free. Yes, there have been a handful of minor drug lords and their gang who have been neutralized. But while the government knows and freely admits that the bulk of the illegal drugs sold in the Philippines come from mainland China, not a single Chinese drug lord has been apprehended, much less convicted. They come and go as they please and are even able to free their underlings who have been charged.
Instead of focusing on getting the lords at the top of the totem pole, the administration has opted to focus on the children at the very bottom.
Meanwhile, the lawmakers at the upper chamber of Congress have other, albeit similar, ideas. Senior Senator Franklin Drilon wants to lower the minimum age to 12, not too different from Senate President Tito Sotto wants the age set at “above 12 years old.”
In my book, 12-year-olds are still minors. They are either boys or girls, not men or women. They may have some awareness of the crimes that they may commit, but they should not be categorized as hardened criminals who are beyond redemption.
This ridiculous law being pushed in the House will need to have a Senate version. We can only hope that the more sensible lawmakers who reject the idea of lowering the age of criminal liability, not to 12 and certainly not to nine.
But since this is said to be a priority of Duterte, the majority of the country’s spineless, subservient lawmakers will most likely succeed in passing the bill which the president will then sign into law.