Con­cern and alarm over pro­posed Philip­pine law to jail nine-year-olds

The Myanmar Times - - World -

CHIL­DREN as young as nine could be jailed in the Philip­pines for cer­tain crimes un­der a pro­posed law backed by the pres­i­dent, spark­ing con­cern from the United Na­tions and rights groups.

Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte’s al­lies have been push­ing to pass laws by De­cem­ber that would re­store the death penalty and lower the min­i­mum age of crim­i­nal re­spon­si­bil­ity from 15 to nine.

Mr Duterte won May elec­tions largely be­cause of a vow to kill tens of thou­sands of drug deal­ers, also promis­ing to close a loop­hole in the juvenile jus­tice sys­tem that he said al­lowed traf­fick­ers to use mi­nors as nar­cotic couri­ers.

“Adult criminals know­ingly and pur­posely make use of youth below 15 years of age to com­mit crimes, such as drug traf­fick­ing,” Pan­ta­leon Al­varez, one of the pro­posed law’s main back­ers, said.

While Mr Duterte wanted the age thresh­old dropped to 12, his al­lies went one step fur­ther by call­ing for it to be low­ered to nine.

The UN chil­dren’s agency UNICEF re­minded the Philip­pines of its in­ter­na­tional obli­ga­tions.

Manila is a state party to the UN Con­ven­tion on the Rights of the Child, which says crim­i­nal re­spon­si­bil­ity below the age of 12 is not ac­cept­able.

“Jail is no place for a child. It is alarm­ing for chil­dren to be in­sti­tu­tion­alised [sent to a pe­nal in­sti­tu­tion],” UNICEF said, adding 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.

One of the groups, Plan In­ter­na­tional, said that chil­dren on the wrong side of the law were of­ten vic­tims of crim­i­nal gangs.

The ad­vo­cates ap­pealed to Mr Duterte to ex­plore fac­tors that led chil­dren to com­mit crimes, such as poverty and lack of parental guid­ance and ed­u­ca­tion.

Mr Duterte’s hard­line ap­proach to criminals has drawn crit­i­cism from its ally the United States, the UN and hu­man rights groups.

Nearly 2000 peo­ple have been killed in police op­er­a­tions and 2800 have died in un­ex­plained cir­cum­stances since Mr Duterte took of­fice on June 30, according to of­fi­cial police fig­ures.

Crit­ics al­lege some of th­ese deaths amount to state-spon­sored ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings, a charge Mr Duterte has re­jected. –

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