Improving Law and Policy Framework for Coordinating the Implementation of Child Protection Laws

Privilege Speech
delivered by

 

Rep. EMMELINE AGLIPAY VILLAR
Party List – DIWA and PLCPD Member

 

Honorable Speaker; distinguished members of this House; ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.

 

I rise today to call upon this august body to use its powers of oversight to safeguard the rights of our children.

 

Mr. Speaker, Ladies and Gentlemen, this House of the people has always stood for the right; and more so when that means safeguarding the rights and future of the next generation of citizens and leaders- our children. Less than a year after the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was passed; we ratified the same.

 

Mr. Speaker, we have always advocated, fought, and legislated for broader protection and special mechanisms to protect our children. As the 1987 Constitution sets forth, we defend “The right of children to assistance, including proper care and nutrition, and special protection from all forms of neglect, abuse, cruelty, exploitation, and other conditions prejudicial to their development.”

 

Mr. Speaker, we should be very concerned about the implementation of five very important laws, namely: RA7610 (Special protection of Children against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act); RA9208 (Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003); RA9262 (Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004); RA9344 (Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006); and RA9775 (Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009).

 

These laws are considered as substantial progress that has strengthened, changed, and improved the protection of children. But, make no mistake, ladies and gentlemen, even as this august body has legislated world class cutting edge laws for our future; society in this instance has not yet caught up.

 

The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD)–an organization to which I belong and which has been advocating legislation and policy reforms in health, children’s rights, governance, food and nutrition security, and in other important areas in human development–is conducting a qualitative study in partnership with UNICEF.

 

It will assess the quality of implementation and harmonization of the five aforementioned laws. Initial findings show that there are significant problems on the ground especially the functionality of local inter-agencies .[1]

 

Firstly, there is a low awareness of the public about RA 7610 (Special protection against Child abuse) and RA 9262 (Anti-violence against women and children) partly because agencies like PNP are not able to ‘cascade’ the information to communities due to lack of funding.

 

Further, in reference to RA 9262, Barangay Local Government Officials find that there are a significant number of police who are unaware on the correct handling and processing of cases involving violence against women and children.

 

For both RA 7610 and RA 9262, it has been observed that in cases of incest, many families prefer not to file. Though other stakeholders can file, they are afraid to do so fearing for their own safety. Another significant challenge in the implementation of RA 7610 and RA 9262 is when the perpetrator is also a minor, there seems to be a lot of confusion and lack of clarity in procedure.

 

Similarly, for all laws, it has been observed that Courts are often NOT “child friendly”. On a related matter, it is reported that fiscals often reduce crimes to mere physical injury even if there is an observable pattern of obvious child abuse.

 

For Anti-Trafficking under RA 9208, it was found that most of the victims of trafficking are trans-shipped through certain areas. Cases do not prosper because victims do not return to pursue the case. In trafficking in persons, there is a clear need for more training, and mass dissemination of information so that women and children do not fall victim.

 

With regard to juvenile detention (RA 9344) and children in conflict with the law, there has been observable confusion in the inter-agency cooperation and partnership. Further, many of the stakeholders are not aware of the amendments of 9344. Finally, with regard to child pornography, it was found thus far that almost no cases have been filed primarily due to a lack of public awareness.

 

Finally, and more importantly, these laws are carried out through a similar set of inter-agency actors that need to be coordinated based on empirical findings to improve implementation of the laws.

To find solutions, it is necessary that this House of the People look into the implementation of laws directly through legislative inquiry. Hence, the House Committee on Welfare of Children must exercise its oversight powers and investigate the implementation of these laws especially the functionality of the inter-agency councils.

 

Given observations about the experiences on the ground, it is high time that we investigate and look into the situation in the local government units particularly when it comes to law enforcement. We must give greater life to the law. And truly, it is through ascertaining the experience of our local leaders with the laws that we can secure proper implementation.

 

 

Certainly, our local leaders in their initial responses are clamoring for greater information dissemination and training. Again, it is the power of this House to look into this clamor and find the proper avenues and means to make the law a living reality that protects and succors our children rather than being merely paper with high ideals.

 

Mr. Speaker, Honorable members of this House, it is the time to act. Let us lead the charge and be the forever vigilant caretakers of our people, this is our mandate and our obligation.

 

Thank you.

[1] Initial findings from evaluation in two of four LGUs under study, namely Zamboanga City and Bobon, Northern Samar. Data from two other LGUs (Quezon City and Aroroy, Masbate) are still being processed.