Before Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs had even begun, allies of the Philippines president were quietly preparing for a wider offensive. On June 30, as Duterte was sworn in, they introduced a bill into the Philippine Congress that could allow children as young as nine to be targeted in a crackdown that has since claimed more than 7,600 lives.
The bill proposes to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 9 years old to prevent what it calls “the pampering of youthful offenders who commit crimes knowing they can get away with it.”
“You can ask any policeman or anyone connected with the law enforcement: We produce a generation of criminals,” Duterte said in a speech in Manila on December 12. Young children, he said, were becoming drug runners, thieves and rapists, and must be “taught to understand responsibility.”
The move to target children signals Duterte’s determination to intensify his drug war, which faces outrage abroad and growing unease at home. The president’s allies say his support in Congress will ensure the bill passes the House of Representatives by June.
The House would approve the bill “within six months,” said Fredenil Castro, who co-authored the legislation with the speaker of the House, Pantaleon Alvarez. It might face opposition in the Senate, but would prevail because of Duterte’s allies there, added Castro.