THE limits of state intervention in how parents raise their children is a long-standing debate in the Western world, where some countries have banned corporal punishment at least in schools.
In Asian culture, however, some form of corporal punishment is acceptable if only to discipline children.
What is common between East and West is that parents are given the prerogative to decide how they discipline their children. Nothing is more annoying than outsiders passing judgment on one’s parenting practices. It’s simply none of their business.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros, a self-described “social activist,” threatens to upset the prevailing balance with Senate Bill (SB) 1477, or the “Positive Discipline Children Act,” which had passed the second and third readings at the Senate.
The title of the measure is innocuous, and we’re sure the intentions of the sponsor and its authors are good. But it has the potential to be unnecessarily intrusive in family life.
It supposedly aims to “protect children from all forms of physical and mental violence by prohibiting beating, kicking, slapping, lashing on any part of a child’s body, with or without the use of an instrument such as broom, cane, whip or belt.”
Particularly, the bill seeks to prohibit the pulling of a child’s hair, shaking or twisting of joints, cutting or piercing the skin, dragging or shoving or throwing a child. Prohibitions also cover harmful adult acts that inflict physical pain on the child, such as making them squat, stand or sit in a contorted position, hold weight or weights for an extended period, kneel on stones, salt or pebbles; as well as verbal abuse or assaults, including intimidation or threat of bodily harm, swearing or cursing, ridiculing or denigrating a child or making him or her look foolish in front of his or her peers or the public.
To be clear, physical abuse of a child is a crime and should never be condoned. But the law—specifically Republic Act 7610 or the “Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act,” passed way back in 1992; and RA 9262, or the “Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004,” already punish child abuse.
Hontiveros’ SB 1477 acknowledges this. But she and the authors of the bill, Senators Grace Poe, Maria Lourdes Nancy Binay and Leila de Lima, seek to go beyond the established limits between state intervention and parental authority, by creating an entire system of “citation.”
For the first and second offenses, the bill states that a written citation by the barangay or village chairman, or his or her representative, shall be given to the parent, guardian or the adult concerned to “desist, stop and refrain” from using corporal punishment.
Not content with equating parenting to traffic rules, the Hontiveros bill goes overboard by proposing to require a “mediation and reconciliation meeting” between warring parents and children, exposing family affairs to the entire village.
Parents could also be sent to what is essentially a re-education seminar, to tell them how to parent their own children. A third offense will allow village officials to initiate a complaint for child abuse.
During the period of interpellations, Hontiveros admitted to Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd that as a child, she was subjected to physical punishment, yet she turned out fine as an adult.
She argues that parents who suffered from corporal punishment as children “continue the pattern of harm on their own children,” and the practice “has to be stopped.”
Hontiveros seems to be suspecting that children are being secretly abused by their parents at homes all over the country, even citing survey data from SWS, and proposes to turn village officials into snoops and spies.
She had attempted to do this before and failed, when she and other proponents of the Reproductive Health Law tried to circumvent parental authority by allowing the government to dispense family planning services to children without parental consent. It was struck down by the Supreme Court.
Parental or any adult cruelty against children should be stopped by all means, including legal, if necessary. But what needs to end with such cruelty is the tendency of big-government politicians to poke their noses into private family affairs that do not involve physical violence. They should leave parenting to the parents, not to the state.