DON'T look now, but House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez may yet prove to be the next despot.

At a recent closed-door meeting, Alvarez realized that some Cabinet secretaries and heads of national agencies opposed House Bill 002, which seeks to lower the minimum age for criminal responsibility from 15 years old to 9.

Alvarez reportedly said, “Because as Cabinet secretaries, you don’t contradict with the views of the President. Alter ego ka nga eh. Ngayon kung ayaw mong maniwala dun, ‘eh ‘di mag-resign ka.”

But DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo called the bill “anti-poor,” especially because a greater majority of children in conflict with the law come from lower-income families.

She said that the Philippine experience and those of other countries proved that lowering the age of criminal responsibility never curbed the crime rates.

Alvarez believes that his bill would stop syndicates from exploiting minors for their misdeeds. If so, then the children are victims and penalizing them, instead of the exploiting adults, would mean this country’s failure to uphold children’s rights and well-being.

I find the best argument against the bill coming from psychologists. One such is a good friend and former high school classmate of mine who has a very successful practice in the U.S.

Two years ago, we talked about why children go astray, sometimes committing grave mistakes with life-impacting results. She then talked about the brain and its development, and its parts.

The part responsible for executive functions is the prefrontal cortex. Executive functions refer to planning, taking risks, setting goals, differentiating among conflicting thoughts, prediction of outcomes, determining good or bad, better and best, same and different, or same and different, evaluating one’s actions, future consequences of present actions, and social control.

This part of the brain, though developing during teenage years, is not fully developed until a person is in his mid-20s.

Various researches in Psychology Today stress the same. Any variation would be on the age of full development; some stretch full development to age 25.

“Yet,” my friend said, “children in the U.S. are released to fend off for themselves at age 18. The decision-making part of their brain is not yet fully developed. That’s why so many young people there mess up their lives.”

So, when Speaker Alvarez objects to raising the minimum age to 12 instead of 9, saying “No. Nag-aral ako ng law, 9 years old na ‘yan. At mas advanced na tayo ngayon in terms of discernment,” he’s definitely arguing not from a point of information.

In his desire to pander to the presidential will, Alvarez must avoid merely choosing the data to suit his narrative.