MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday said he was outraged after learning in the news the rounding up of minors in a recent anti-illegal drug operation.
Duterte said it was unfortunate that some drug syndicate has used minors in their operations, as he highlighted the need to eradicate the country of the illegal drugs and brushed aside criticisms from human rights groups.
“Kaya nung nangyari nung five days ago, ang mga nagme-maintain ngayon ng shabu ang mga bata. Kung may parokyano na makita niya naghahanap, dadalhin nila doon hithitin nila, sila na ang kukubra, pati ang mga bata shoot na rin sila, as young as 6, 8, 9, 14,” Duterte said in a speech in Lucena City, Quezon.
“Itong mga bata ginamit nila, kaya nagwala ako.”
Duterte did not identify which recent incident he referred to, but he was likely alluding to the recent rescue of some 12 minors in suspected drug dens in Navotas City.
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency said it will file charges against the parents of the children who were rescued during the January 16 operation.
Duterte expressed outrage over the alleged involvement of the minors in illegal drug operations just as Congress deliberates on the possible lowering of the minimum age of criminal liability. He did not make a reference to the issue in his speech.
The House justice committee approved on Monday a bill seeking to lower the age of criminal liability to 9 years old.
Duterte is seeking the lowering of minimum age of criminal liability, saying the current law shielding minors of certain ages from criminal prosecution has produced a “generation of criminals.”
Under Republic Act 9344, sometimes referred to as the Pangilinan Law after its author Senator Francis Pangilinan, a child 15 years of age or under at the time of the offense shall be exempt from criminal liability. However, the child shall be subjected to an "intervention program."
In the Senate, Senate President Vicente Sotto III also filed a bill seeking to lower the age of criminal responsibility to 13 "to adapt to changing times."
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the President has not yet specified which age should be set as the minimum age of criminal liability.
“All he has been saying since the campaign is he wants that lowered. And we will leave that to the lawmakers,” Panelo said in a Palace press briefing.