Philippines wants prison sentences for children from the age of 9

In the Philippines a bill has been submitted to lower the minimum punishable age for children from 15 to 9 years old. The proposal comes from allies of President Duterte.

Children's rights

The new president has tackled crime in a controversial way since taking office in June last year. He has permitted death squads to kill drug dealers on the streets and because of this 31 children have been murdered. During his election campaign Duterte promised to put an end to the use of minors as drug couriers. It is claimed that by lowering the minimum age of imprisonment parents will be deterred to use their children for criminal activities.

Children are victims, not perpetrators

Terre des Hommes is deeply concerned about the bill. Children who engage in crime or prostitution are victims of exploitation. This amendment ensures that children, who for example are forced into prostitution, are not to be regarded as victims but as the perpetrators.

Violation of children's rights 

The bill violates the UN Convention. Child rights expert Hilde Neels of Terre des Hommes, "This treaty has also been signed by the Philippines. It states that children under the age of twelve do not fall under normal criminal law. The premise here is that children are not able to see the full consequences of their actions, especially when they have been forced by an adult."

Imprisonment harms children  

Critical Filipino politicians also point out that children who are put behind bars will be damaged for life and that this measure will have the opposite effect than is intended. By sending such young children to prison, where they grow up  shoulder to shoulder with experienced criminals, there is a good chance that they will end up as trained criminals.

Child Justice Advocacy Group

The Child Justice Advocacy Group, a group of NGOs of which Terre des Hommes is a member, has released a joint statement against the bill. The statement was presented to the Philippines parliament and an active lobbying campaign has begun to try prevent the lowering of the minimum punishable age.  According to the Child Justice Advocacy Group, this bill does not solve the crime problem.


 

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