Controversial strongman Rodrigo Duterte has sparked outrage by pushing for the age of criminal responsibility to be lowered from 15 to nine.
The Philippines leader, who last month admitted sexually assaulting a maid when he was a schoolboy has come under fire over the plans.
He claims drugs gangs are using young children because they cannot be thrown in jail.
But activists claim the policy which still needs Senate approval would target youngsters from poor backgrounds.
The law change would see children who commit drug offences – as well as serious crimes including murder – facing “mandatory confinement”.
Senator Antonio Trillanes, one of Duterte’s biggest critics, said: “It is anti-family, anti-poor and simply unjust.
“Moreover, it will promote a heartless and ruthless society that has no regard for its own people.”
Groups including UNICEF and Save The Children have hit out at the plans, saying children should be protected from criminals, not punished for things they are forced to do.
Since July 2016, when Duterte took power, authorities claim 5,000 lives have been lost during the president’s war on drugs.
But activists claim the real number is far higher, with Duterte accused of turning a blind eye to extrajudicial killings.
After his election, Duterte said he would happily exterminate three million drug users.
Noting that Hitler had murdered millions of Jews, Duterte said, “There are 3 million drug addicts (in the Philippines). I’d be happy to slaughter them.
“If Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have …,” he said, pausing and pointing to himself.
Source: The Guardian