PNP: Over 1,300 children caught for drug violations since 2017
MANILA, Philippines – Figures from the Philippine National Police (PNP) released on Monday, January 21, showed that from January 2017 to December 2018, the police have caught over 1,300 children aged 17 years and below for their alleged involvement in illegal drugs.
In 2017, police captured – or "rescued," as law enforcers prefer to say – and turned over to rehabilitation agencies 481 minors who allegedly violated the Dangerous Drugs Act or Republic Act No. 9165 (RA 9165). Police caught almost double that figure or 857 minors in 2018.
This means that in a span of two years, a total of 1,338 minors were caught for their alleged involvement in illegal drugs. This is equivalent to around 13 apprehensions of minors a week.
RA 9165 penalizes acts such as using, carrying, selling, manufacturing, and importing illegal drugs, as well as managing a drug laboratory or farm.
Republic Act No. 9344 or the Juvenile Justice Law of 2006 sets the minimum age of criminal liability at 15 years old – meaning those between 15 to 18 years old may be detained in youth centers and be put through rehabilitation programs. Those under 15 years old are exempted from criminal liability and undergo intervention.
Minors being 'used': During his press briefing on Monday, PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde noted that most of the minors who commit violations of RA 9165 are just being "used" by adults.
"Nakita natin as young as 10 years old, these are being used as drug runners. Ito ang pinaka-runners. Natututo din ang matatanda kasi alam nila itong mga bata ay 'di makukulong," Albayalde said.
(We saw children as young as 10 years old being used as drug runners. They are the runners themselves. The adults have learned to use them because children cannot be jailed.)
Albayalde said this is why the police are "inclined" to support a law lowering the age of criminal liability. On Monday, the House committee on justice approved a bill that seeks to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 years old to 9 years old.
As early as October 2018, the PNP already expressed its support for similar proposals made in the Senate. – with a report from Camille Elemia/Rappler.com