President Rodrigo Duterte, evidently without a thorough study and intelligent consideration, asked the House of Representatives, through Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, to pass an amendment to an existing Philippine law to lower the current 15-year-old criminal liability age down to 9.

Acting like a dutiful colleague in government, Mrs. Arroyo pushed for the House Committee on Justice to approve the lowering the age of criminal responsibility to 9 years old from 15 “to support the request of President Duterte.”

UNICEF, the international organization criticizing the measure, said in a statement:

“UNICEF is deeply concerned about ongoing efforts in Congress to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility in the Philippines below 15 years of age. The proposed lowering vary from 9 and 12 years, and goes against the letter and spirit of child rights.

“There is a lack of evidence and data that children are responsible for the increase in crime rates committed in the Philippines. Lowering the age of criminal responsibility will not deter adult offenders from abusing children to commit crimes.

“UNICEF supports the Philippine Government, as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), to ensure that children grow up in a safe environment protected from crime and violence.

“A 9-year-old child has not yet even reached the age of puberty and their brains are not developed to understand the consequences of actions.”

Vice President Leni Robredo, likewise, expressed opposition to the Duterte plan saying that children must be given a chance to reform instead of putting them behind bars.

According to reports from Manila, some senators are more inclined to lower the age to 12 than 9.

It means those who are in favor of 12 are not being “obedient” to the request of President Duterte.

Be that as it may, we feel that there is no need to lower the in-force age of 15 as criminal liability age in the native country.

We agree with UNICEF.

It is most unfortunate that the failure of the Duterte government to solve the drugs and crime problems that it promised to eliminate in six months from July 2016 is being passed on to 9 year olds.

(Editorial note: Since this editorial was written, the House of Representatives changed their position from 9 to 12 years old. The bill will now go to the Senate for deliberations and decision.)

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