Govt urged to honor UN commitment

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CITING reports showing evidence that child rights violations continue to persist despite key achievements in protecting the young’s rights in the Philippines, advocates on Thursday urged President Benigno Aquino 3rd to use the remaining days of his term to fulfill the country’s commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

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The group Bata Muna called on the President to prevent retrogressions in realization of children’s rights and appealed to him to step up actions to ensure that policies needed are put in place before he leaves Malacañang in 2016.

In particular, it pleaded that the Aquino administration guarantee representation of 43 million Filipino children in local governance and uphold their rights 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,” Dennis Velasco of Zone One Tondo Inc. (ZOTO) and Bata Muna spokesman said.

Velasco added that “[p]olicy 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 [village]captains who refuse to release SK funds, mainly because [an]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,” he said.

Velasco pointed out that greater fiscal autonomy is important to enable SK representatives to effectively perform their duties and responsibilities.

But, he said, fiscal autonomy should go hand in hand with accountability, not just in utilization of funds but also in meaningful participation of Katipunan ng Kabataan (KK) in the governance process.

Bata Muna also called on Congress to make a priority passage of House Bill 4907, which seeks to promote positive and non-violent discipline of children.
The bill is up for floor deliberations in the House of Representatives but its Senate counterpart has not been moving since the 15th Congress.

Prohibition by law of all forms of corporal punishment in the home, schools, alternative childcare and places of work was 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 such 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, according to Bata Muna.
Disciplining children is teaching and guiding them without the use of any form of violence, the group said.

While Bata Muna recognizes and celebrates gains made on the realization of children’s rights as evidenced by the existence of various laws that aim to protect the young such as the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act, Anti-Child Trafficking Act, Anti-Pornography Act and Foster Care Act, its optimism for what the future holds is tempered by challenges that continue to face children.

“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 [it]accountable for full implementation of the children’s rights,” according to Auxilium Tuling-Olayer, executive director of the court-appointed Special Advocates/Guardian Ad Litem and Bata Muna advocate. JING VILLAMENTE

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