Comparing yourself to Hitler is never a good look for a politician. Neither is publicly stating on the world stage that you wish to jail 9-year-olds. Yet Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has been found guilty of both.
The controversial hardliner has upset the apple cart in a big way by leading the drive for the age of criminal responsibility in the Philippines to be lowered from 15 to 9.
As part of his ongoing war on the brutal drug gangs which are ravishing the country, the president is leading a campaign for children to be charged the same as adults who face similar drug-related crimes.
At the moment only those over the age of 15 will be charged as adults. Duterte initially wanted the threshold dropped to include anyone aged 9 and over. After suffering pushback from campaigners and politicians, he eventually proposed that only those aged 12 and over could be thrown in jail.
The proposed legislation could result in kids being arrested and detained in adult detention centers which are both dangerous and extremely overcrowded.
The president’s logic is that at the moment, criminal gangs are getting away with using young children as drug mules because they know the youngsters will not be imprisoned if caught.
Activists are alarmed that the policy, which is yet to be approved by the Senate, would unfairly discriminate against children from impoverished backgrounds who have little to no choice when it comes to being recruited by the gangs who terrorize their neighborhoods.
The Guardian reports that Bayan Muna representative Carlos Zarate condemned the bill as “anti-child and anti-poor.”
“You don’t help victimized and marginalized children by branding them as criminals and limiting their options while growing up,” said Zarate.
To date, Duterte’s war on drugs has been fierce and bloody. Police statistics show that between January 2017 and December 2018, about 1,300 minors were arrested on drugs charges, usually for their roles as drug runners.
An Amnesty International report reveals that in the first 18 months of the war on drugs, dozens of children had been killed by the police.
The Mirror reports that secretary general of Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns Eule Rico Bonganay said, “Children are in a situation where they have to commit crime for survival.
“Because even government data shows that the profile of children in conflict with the law are mostly … from poor families, they obtained a low level of education and they live in a community where there is a high rate of crime.
“The law change would see children who commit drug offenses – as well as serious crimes including murder – facing “mandatory confinement.”
One of Duterte’s harshest critics Senator Antonio Trillanes described the proposal as “anti-family, anti-poor and simply unjust. Moreover, it will promote a heartless and ruthless society that has no regard for its own people.”
Duterte is renowned for his hard-boiled zero-tolerance and flirtation with fascism. After the election, he famously appeared to compare himself with Hitler and said he would happily exterminate 3 million drug users.
The president said, “There are three million drug addicts (in the Philippines). I’d be happy to slaughter them. If Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have…” At this point, the president paused knowingly before pointing to himself as the crowd roared their approval.