Quezon City, 20 November 2014 – Following reports showing evidences that child rights violations continue to persist despite key achievements in the implementation of children’s rights in the Philippines, child rights advocates today urge President Aquino to use the remaining days of his term to fulfill the Philippines’ commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child [1].

The group Bata Muna [2] calls on President Aquino to prevent retrogression in the realization of children’s rights and urged him to step up actions to ensure that policies needed are put in place before his term ends.   In particular, the advocates urge the Aquino administration to protect the representation of 43 million [3] Filipino children in local governance and uphold the rights of the children against corporal punishment.

“The Philippines is recognized globally for having the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) as an institutionalized mechanism in the formal governance structure that enables children to participate in the development of their communities,” said Dennis Velasco of Zone One Tondo Inc. (ZOTO), Bata Muna Spokesperson.  “The issues being hurled at SK have pushed moves for law reform. The reform bills that are being deliberated in Congress include proposals to increase the age of those who will vote for and can run for seats in the SK from 15-17 to 18-24 years old. This provision will threaten children’s formal representation in the local government and will systematically exclude them from participating in the local governance process,” said Velasco.

Velasco argues, “instead of increasing the age of children, policy makers should focus on creating a political environment where children in the SK are protected from harmful influences, manipulation and corruption; and sufficiently guided and supported to perform their roles.”

“We know for a fact that there are Barangay Captains who refuse to release the SK funds, mainly because the SK official is from the opposing party. There are also some areas where SK projects are determined by the Barangay Captains, taking away the chance from the SK representative to develop projects that are good for them,” Velasco added.

Velasco pointed out that greater fiscal autonomy is very important to enable SK representatives to effectively perform their duties and responsibilities; but fiscal autonomy should go hand in hand with accountability, not just in the utilization of funds but importantly in the meaningful participation of the Katipunan ng Kabataan (KK) in the governance process. IMG_1505

Meanwhile, Bata Muna continues to call on Congress to prioritize the passage of House Bill 4907 [4] which promote positive and non-violent discipline of children.  The proposed legislation is now up for floor deliberations in the House of Representatives.  Unfortunately, its Senate counterpart has not been moving since the 15th Congress.

The prohibition by law of all forms of corporal punishment in the home, schools, alternative childcare and places of work is one of the recommendations provided by UN experts to the Philippine government in 2009.

Children all over the world have identified corporal punishment as a major issue, and expressed that corporal punishment hurts them and that they will learn better if they are disciplined without the use of violence. Discipline is not the same as punishment. Disciplining children is teaching and guiding them without the use of any form of violence. This is done by showing them love and affection and at the same time, providing them with clear rules and guidelines on what is right and wrong and how to deal with everyday situations depending on their particular capacities at certain ages. Disciplining children without violence is not permissive parenting.

While the Bata Muna recognizes and celebrates the gains made on the realization of children’s rights as evidenced by the existence of various laws that aim to protect children such as the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act, Anti-Child Trafficking Act, Anti-Pornography Act, Foster Care Act; the National Strategic Framework for the Development of Children 2001-2025; the Philippine Plan of Action for Children; and the growing collective efforts of civil society to claim children’s rights, their optimism for what the future holds is tempered by the challenges that continue to persist for children.

The results of the review of the United Nations experts’ recommendations to the Philippine government and the consultations conducted by the Bata Muna show that children’s opportunity to influence decisions, particularly in formal governance, is very limited; and that they continue to experience corporal punishment at home, in school and in other settings.

“But there is more that needs to be done.  While physical and other abuses of children are still widespread and are of deep concern, we must not get tired of calling on the government and making them accountable for the full implementation of the children’s rights,” said Auxilium Tuling-Olayer, Executive Director of the Court Appointed Special Advocates/Guardian Ad Litem (CASAGAL) and Bata Muna advocate.

“We call on President Aquino, to facilitate the setting up of mechanisms so that the country’s commitments made under the UNCRC is met before his term ends.  This will be his meaningful legacy to the Filipino children,” ends Olayer. IMG_1520

Note :

[1] The adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 20 November 1989 marks the recognition of children’s human rights.  Ten months after the adoption, the Philippines become party to the convention, making the Philippines accountable in ensuring that policies, mechanisms, structures, resources and programs are available to enable the realization of children’s rights. Today marks 25 years since the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, an international treaty that recognizes children as rights holders. When the Philippine government ratified the Convention in 1990, it made the state accountable for addressing children’s immediate needs and bringing about positive changes in their lives.

[2] Bata Muna is a nationwide movement aimed at advancing children’s meaningful participation in governance. It is jointly organized by Save the Children, Samahan ng Mamamayan – Zone One Tondo Organization (ZOTO), Children Talk to Children (C2C) about the UN CRC Project children’s organizations AKKAP, AYM, CYO and YMETCO, Plan International, WomanHealth Philippines, ChildFund, Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc. (PLCPD), Caraga Emergency Response Group (CERG), Mindanao Action Group for Children’s Rights and Protection (MAGCRP), Mindanao Emergency Response Network (MERN), World Vision, Intervida Philippines Foundation (Intervida), Cebu Court Appointed Special Advocates /Guardian Ad Litem (CASAGAL) Volunteers Association Inc., Inclusive Education Network Chapter (IEN), Philippines Against Child Trafficking (PACT), Lingap Pangkabataan Inc., Open Heart Foundation, NGO Coalition, ERDA, ChildHope Asia Philippines, Reina Federation, and Yakap sa Kaunlaran ng Bata Inc.

[3] Estimated 2014 population of Filipino citizens below 18 years old based in the 2010 Census and Housing Population and Annual Growth Rate for the Philippines of the National Statistic Office.

[4] HB 4907 titled, “The Positive and Non-Violent Discipline of Children Act” prohibits any form of corporal punishment, humiliating or degrading chastisement to children like kicking, slapping, pulling hair, twisting joints, dragging, forcing a child through the use of power, authority or threats, to perform physically painful or damaging acts, kneeling on stones, salt or pebbles, refusal to provide the child’s physical needs, tying up a child, verbal abuse, swearing or cursing, and making a child look or feel foolish in front of one’s peers or public by shaving hair.(Vigie Benosa Llorin)