HRW: Gov’t may use children as ‘scapegoats’ in war against criminality
MANILA, Philippines — Lowering the age of criminal liability to nine years old could turn children into “scapegoats” of the administration in its war against criminality.
This was the statement of Human Right Watch (HRW) on Wednesday following the approval of the bill by the House of Representative justice panel.
“Children in the Philippines have already been subjected to the extreme violence of Duterte’s ‘drug war,’ with the police and government agents killing dozens during anti-drug operations as suspected drug users or for being pawns of drug dealers,” HRW Asia Division researcher Carlos Conde said in a statement.
“The proposed law will not only stigmatize children even more – it turns them into scapegoats in the government’s abusive anti-crime campaign,” he added.
If approved and implemented, the bill could have a drastic effect on children, according to Conde. He also argued that it could “worsen the plight of Filipino children.”
“If the Senate makes good on its promise to pass this version, and it’s signed into law by the president, this would no doubt worsen the plight of Filipino children caught up in the justice system,” he said.
“The law’s impact would be punitive: children from 14 to 9 who commit serious crimes such as murder, illegal detention, or ‘carnapping,’ or violate the country’s draconian drug laws can be sentenced to ‘mandatory confinement’ of up to 12 years,” Conde added.
Senators have already expressed dissent to the proposal.
However, Rep. Oriental Mindoro 1st District Rep. Salvador “Doy” Leachon said on Monday that the measure under the bill was “not anti-poor and ruthless.”
“Let it be understood that with the present bill, we are not putting these children in jail but in reformative institutions to correct their ways and bring them back to the community,” Leachon said. /ee
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