Pia: ‘Child support a neglected issue’

News Release
20 September 2011

Pia laments: ‘Child support is a neglected issue’
Transcript of interview with Senator Pia S. Cayetano
Chairperson, Senate Committee on Youth, Women and Family Relations
Topic: Proposed Child Support Bills
Philippine Senate, 20 September 2011

Q: Mam, andami-dami palang humihingi ng child support…

SPSC: Yes. Imagine, nagulat ako na umaabot pala sa 100 letters a day ang tinatanggap ng Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID) na [humihinging] pigilan ang pag-alis ng mga asawa o mga tatay na hindi nagbibigay ng suporta sa anak nila, and yet, unfortunately, walang magawa ang BID kundi sabihan sila na criminal case lang ang nabibigyan nila ng watchlist o hold-departure order so, one of the things we’re looking at dito sa bill natin on child support, hindi lamang po para gawing krimen itong hindi pagbibigay ng suporta, but we really want to explore kung ano yung solusyon para talagang masugpo ang problem, which is, napakarami, milyon din po ang mga bata na hindi binibigyan ng suporta ng magulang nila.

At hindi pa nga natin pinag-uusapan dito yung cases na questionable yung paternity, ibig sabihin, yung hindi pa acknowledged yung anak. Eto po ay talagang legitimate na mga anak [na di binibigyan ng suporta], or minsan may illegitimate pero acknowledged din naman ng parent, yet they don’t give support. And so marami ho dyan na [cases] within the barangay, so we’re looking to strengthen yung Lupong Tagapamayapa o yung conciliation within the barangay; yung role din ng DSWD and the LGU; tapos po we’re also looking at the role of the Civil Service Commission (CSC), kasi marami din hong mga government employees na hindi nagbibigay ng support; and then included din po yung mga professionals (PRC), andami rin po palang natatanggap na mga reklamo ang professional regulatory boards ng different professions ha. Sinusulatan sila and they file cases seeking to revoke the license of these professionals who are not paying for their child. And then finally, yung kaso din po ng mga OFWs, marami din po dyang kasong ganyan na iniwan na rin po lang talaga ang family, so andaming aspeto nito that we have to explore: How do we get the private sector, the employers, how do we get the government as employers, and then the foreign employers [in the case of OFWs] to recognize the fact that this is not just a Philippine Constitution-guaranteed right of the child for support, but also an international right guaranteed na ang anak ay dapat bigyan ng supporta ng kanilang mga magulang.

Q: But Mam, would you go to that extent to criminalize a civil liability?

SPSC: Actually, it [refusal to give child support] is already a crime. Kasi, if you look at the law on violence against women and children [RA 9262], economic abuse is already considered a crime. So actually, it [bill] is not introducing anything new. Etong dalawang bill na fi-nile po nina Sen. Miriam and Sen. Legarda include also penalties which are fines, and may prison time din po.

Pero sa akin po, katulad po ng sinabi ng taga-PAO [Public Attorney's Office], parang huling resort na po nila yun. It’s part of the negotiations [they would tell the parent…]: ‘You know this is a crime that you’re committing and you can go to jail for this.’ Pero for me, more importantly, is: Ano ba ang awareness ng mga Pilipino dun sa obligation nila sa mga anak nila di ba? How lacking are we in acknowledging that as parents, we have an obligation to these children.

And then number two, aside from the threat of going to prison, ano yung mechanisms na pwede natin ilagay? So that if you cross that line and are not a good parent, automatically, your child does not have to suffer. Imagine yung child, mag-aantay pa ba yan ng isang taon, dalawang taon, habang nagbubunuan pa kayo sa korte? Hindi dapat pagdaaanan ng isang bata yan di ba? The support to a child must be immediate.

Q: On the watchlist order na papayagan, let’s say na mapayagan na pati civil liabilities like yung support [ay masakop nito], gaano katagal po kaya iyon if you work on it?

SPSC: Etong bill na ito? Well, nagpasabi na po kami sa aming mga resource persons na kung bibigyan sila ng pagkakataon ay hihingin ko po talaga na mag-hearing kami ulit. Next week, if pwede in the next few weeks, sunud-sunod lang, para magampanan na natin ito.

I think this is an area that has been neglected. And I hate to say this, but napakaraming abusadong magulang na, kailangan pa bang isabatas natin yung obligasyon n’yo sa anak n’yo? Kailangan pa bang gumawa pa tayo ng bagong batas? But it appears na kailangan. Kasi tinataguan po nila yung responsibilidad.

Yung isang halimbawa na binigay ng ating representative from PAO, is that hindi naman sa ayaw magbayad, kaya lang, eh dalawa na ho yung pamilya nya. So talagang kinakapos. Well, at the end of the day, sino bang nagsilang sa anak na yan? Ikaw pa rin di ba? So ikaw pa rin ang dapat maghanap ng solusyon. And what I am only doing is putting the mechanism there to be sure na makarating sa bata sa lalong madaling panahon yang suportang yan.

Q: What sorts of penalties are being pushed? Imprisonment?

SPSC: Yung nakalagay sa bill, may fine na P30,000 to P50,000. But honestly, para sa akin, yung imprisonment tsaka yung fine is secondary to putting in place a very strong mechanism para makarating sa bata ang suporta. Kasi sabi ko nga, kung wala namang maibabayad na suporta, tapos mapupunta pa sa penalty, at makukulong pa yung tao, syempre mas gugustuhin kong mapunta na lang sa bata yun [fine].

Q: So out of court settlement na lang?

SPSC: Yun nga talaga, I was emphasizing that what we need to strengthen now is mediation. So sabi ko nga sa PAO at DSWD, and then sa PRC, if DSWD can train itong mga mediators para hindi na kailangang kunin yung oras ng [korte], and then naka-assign na po iyan sa level ng lupon sa barangay; naka-assign din dapat para sa migrant workers; sa mga papaalis ng bansa; sa OWWA; naka-assign yan dyan so that nandyan yung skill nila to mediate on this issue so that we don’t have to go court.

And then dapat ma-recognize, tumaas ang awareness ng mga private employers natin, pati the government employer, na once na etong outcome ng mediation, etong private agreement has been signed, no need to go to court, di ba? This is a valid agreement na dapat i-recognize. Kasi ang nangyayari pala, may mga employers na pagdating sa kanila [agreement setting the amount and details of support], nagdududa pa sila sa agreement na yan. Ayaw nilang ibigay o partehan pa ang ibang tao nung sweldo liban doon sa employee. Well, may basehan naman sila, but that can be included in the law, that these agreements must be recognized and supported. Kasi we need the whole system to be in place. Kung hindi naman ire-release ng employer, di bale wala rin.

Photo: Sen. Pia Cayetano presides over Tuesday’s public hearing on the proposed ‘Child Support’ Bills.

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