Some rare good news for human rights in the Philippines: Lawmakers have decided against a proposed change to the juvenile justice law that would have allowed 9-year-old children to be prosecuted and imprisoned.

A child peers from inside a makeshift house with tin walls in Tacloban, Philippines, January 15, 2015.

© 2016 Reuters

The House subcommittee on correctional reforms rejected a proposal last week to lower the age of criminal responsibility from 15 years to 9 years. The subcommittee justified that decision on the basis that “children do not have yet the full capacity to understand the extent and consequences of their actions.” Congressional allies of President Rodrigo Duterte had submitted a bill last November on lowering the age of criminal responsibility to combat what they alleged was the collusion of children in the drug trade.

The internationally accepted age of criminal responsibility is 12 years – three years above what the bill proposed. Additionally, under the Convention on the Rights of the Child – which the Philippines has ratified – the arrest, detention, or imprisonment of children should only be used as a last resort; instead, rehabilitation should be offered whenever possible.

The subcommittee’s decision requires approval by the House justice panel, which should have the sense to agree that 9-year-olds don’t belong behind bars.