While the teenage drug couriers who were caught in separate drug raids in the cities of Cebu and Talisay last Sunday are in no danger of being sentenced to death anytime soon, the moves of President Rodrigo Duterte’s allies in Congress to lower the age of accountability may raise the specter of death over the heads of similar underaged offenders.
The two minors who were arrested by the police for delivering drugs to their adult handlers claimed innocence of the crime by saying they were unaware that the sachets they were delivering were shabu.
In that sense, they were like the boy in that 1997 Antonio Banderas film “Desperado” who delivered guitars at a local bookshop only to be shown by Banderas’ lead character, the mysterious El Mariachi, that the guitars contained drugs.
Or maybe they do know that what they were delivering were drugs but they were too afraid to lose the easy money offered to them by their elders as well as fearful of what these elders would do if they refused their offer.
Police may not have considered that possibility as they are only too eager to lump the underaged drug runners or couriers along with the adult drug dealers and users, insisting that they share the same amount of culpability and liability as these criminals.
They would cite the case of the two teenagers caught trying to stash away the drugs inside a house in Talisay City that was abandoned by a drug suspect who ran after seeing police chasing after him last Sunday. By hiding the drugs, these teenagers were aware that they were dealing in drugs, the police would say.
While President Duterte may be ruthless when it comes to dealing with adult drug dealers and users, it would be quite unlikely that he would cross the line and have children prosecuted like common criminals, let alone have the police put them to death for being drug couriers.
And so far, we haven’t learned or heard of any reports of underaged drug dealers in the country though it isn’t entirely out of the realm of possibilities.
If that day does come, it would represent a new low for crime in this country and a disturbing sign that society has failed to keep its youth away from the lure of easy money and power offered by these dealers of death.
We have heard of minors unfortunately being used as drug runners by drug syndicates, and it is frustrating on the part of police to see these minors being turned over to social workers only to be released to their parents afterward with no guarantee that they would be used again.
But ending the drug menace doesn’t mean lowering the age of criminal liability for children who are, whether the police believes it or not, victims cowed into submission by adult dealers who are doubly culpable for involving them into their crimes.
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