More to be done for children’s rights

Published by reposted only Date posted on November 27, 2014

Last Tuesday’s column focused on the positive condition of Filipino girls with respect to their enjoyment of their rights. The bright message was revealed by Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman at the celebration of the 25th year of founding of the Convention on Child’s Rights (CCR) on Nov. 20, 1989.

Last Monday, non-government organizations held their own programs detailing the needs and challenges of Filipino children.

The group Bata Muna urged President Aquino to use the remaining days of his term to fulfill the Philippines’ commitment to the Convention. It noted “retrogression” in the realization of children’s rights, called for the protection of 43 million Filipino children in local governance, and upholding the right of the child against corporal punishment.

The Philippines is recognized globally for having the Sangguniang Kabataan as “an institutional mechanism in the formal governance structure that enables children to participate in the development of their country,” said Dennis Veloso, spokesperson of Zone One Tondo One (ZOTO).

Veloso decried the moves in Congress to increase the age of those who will vote for and can run for seats in the Sangguniang Kabataan from 15 to 17 years old to 18 to 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, Veloso said.

Save the Children, an international child rights organization that has been implementing programs and services for children in the Philippines for more than 30 years, said that children aged 15-17 years old are already “capable of making informed decisions, provided that they receive proper and sustained support from adults.”

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Bata Muna also called on Congress to prioritize the passage of House Bill 4907 which promotes positive and non-violent discipline of children. The proposed legislation is now up for floor deliberation in the House of Representatives. However, Bata Muna said, the Senate has not been moving on the issue since the convening of the 15th Congress.

Said Bata Muna: “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. 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.”

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. These are 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. “The optimism for what the future holds is tempered by the challenges that continue to persist for children.”

Auxilium Tuling-Olayer, executive director of the Court-appointed Special Advocates/Guardian Ad Litem (CASAGAL), and Bata Muna advocate, said there is more to be done re the move against corporal punishment. “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.”

On the other hand, Sen. Loren Legarda said she will continue to support efforts to fight human trafficking, as she praised improved government performance in curbing the crime.

This call is serious, as many of victims of human trafficking are children.

Legarda made the statement in reaction to the result of the 2014 Global Slavery Index that showed the Philippines is No. 1 in Asia, No. 3 in Asia Pacific, and No. 29 worldwide out of 166 countries in terms of government response against human trafficking.

The report was released by Walk Free Foundation, an Australian-based global human rights organization dedicated to ending modern day slavery.

“We are now seeing the benefits of an expanded anti-trafficking law and the strengthened efforts of law enforcement agencies to stop human trafficking But we still have more work to do because the challenges are also getting tougher, especially with the emergence of cyber sex crimes,” said Legarda. The senator is the principal sponsor of the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act (R.A. 10364).

The senator said the proliferation of cyber sex trafficking is alarming especially because there are cases wherein the perpetrators are the parents of the victims.

“These cases of cyber sex trafficking tell us that with advancements in the Internet, allowing communication to cross national borders in a manner of seconds, everything is now within reach. We need to strengthen cooperation and improve coordination with international police groups for continuous successful operations against cyber pornography,” Legarda said.

Legarda said she will continue to give her full support to the Department of Justice, as head of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, and the National Bureau of Investigation “for the full and effective implementation of the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, as well as in carrying out a massive information and education campaign against all forms of human trafficking, including cyber pornography.” –Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star)

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