Senator Leila de Lima on Wednesday expressed her dissent to the move to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 to nine years old.
"Children are not criminals. They're victims too," the opposition senator, who is on trial for drug-related charges, said after a pre-trial hearing at the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court.
She said authorities must run after "big-time drug lords and syndicates" instead of children. "Nasaan ang konsensya nila? Heartless monsters!"
De Lima is detained on drug charges filed by the Duterte administration. She will again face the court to be arraigned on one of a number of cases on February 1. The next hearing on another case is scheduled for February 15.
The House justice committee on Monday approved a substitute bill seeking to lower the age of criminal responsibility to nine years old.
Under the proposed measure, a child between nine and 18 years old would be exempted from criminal liability unless they acted with discernment.
Oriental Mindoro Representative Salvador Leachon, chairman of the House panel, said the bill meant to reform children, not put them in jail.
The bill would then have to be deliberated by the House plenary. A counterpart bill at the Senate -- which seeks a lowering of the age of criminal liability to 13 years old -- is pending at the committee level.
Some senators have expressed their opposition to bringing down the age of criminal responsibility to nine years old.
Child rights organizations have also disagreed with the proposed measure. The country representative of UNICEF Philippines said the move "goes against the letter and spirit of child rights," adding that lowering the age of criminal responsibility will not discourage adult criminals from abusing children to commit crimes. —LDF, GMA News