Speech on National Children’s Month


Senate Committee on Youth, Women & Family Relations
4 October 2011

Mr. President, what do the pictures in the slide have in common? These are the places that many children call “HOME.”

Today, I rise on a matter of personal and collective privilege. By virtue of Proclamation No. 267, we celebrate every October as National Children’s Month. But it is not a cause for celebration when you see children sleeping under bridges, under stairs, on the sidewalks, and in carton boxes. Instead, it is a call to action.

Guiding Principles
The government’s role in ensuring the welfare of children is enshrined in Section 13, Article 2 on the Declaration of Principles and State Policies of the 1987 Philippine Constitution which states that:

“The State recognizes the vital role of the youth in nation-building and shall promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social well-being. It shall inculcate in the youth patriotism and nationalism, and encourage their involvement in public and civic affairs.”

The Child and Youth Welfare Code or (Presidential Decree No. 603) lists down all the rights of the child namely:

Art. 3. Rights of the Child. – All children shall be entitled to the rights herein set forth without distinction as to legitimacy or illegitimacy, sex, social status, religion, political antecedents, and other factors.

(1) Every child is endowed with the dignity and worth of a human being from the moment of his conception, as generally accepted in medical parlance, and has, therefore, the right to be born well.

(2) Every child has the right to a wholesome family life that will provide him with love, care and understanding, guidance and counseling, and moral and material security.
The dependent or abandoned child shall be provided with the nearest substitute for a home.

(3) Every child has the right to a well-rounded development of his personality to the end that he may become a happy, useful and active member of society.

The gifted child shall be given opportunity and encouragement to develop his special talents.

The emotionally disturbed or socially maladjusted child shall be treated with sympathy and understanding, and shall be entitled to treatment and competent care.

The physically or mentally handicapped child shall be given the treatment, education and care required by his particular condition.

(4) Every child has the right to a balanced diet, adequate clothing, sufficient shelter, proper medical attention, and all the basic physical requirements of a healthy and vigorous life.

(5) Every child has the right to be brought up in an atmosphere of morality and rectitude for the enrichment and the strengthening of his character.

(6) Every child has the right to an education commensurate with his abilities and to the development of his skills for the improvement of his capacity for service to himself and to his fellowmen.

(7) Every child has the right to full opportunities for safe and wholesome recreation and activities, individual as well as social, for the wholesome use of his leisure hours.

(8) Every child has the right to protection against exploitation, improper influences, hazards, and other conditions or circumstances prejudicial to his physical, mental, emotional, social and moral development.

(9) Every child has the right to live in a community and a society that can offer him an environment free from pernicious influences and conducive to the promotion of his health and the cultivation of his desirable traits and attributes.

(10) Every child has the right to the care, assistance, and protection of the State, particularly when his parents or guardians fail or are unable to provide him with his fundamental needs for growth, development, and improvement.

(11) Every child has the right to an efficient and honest government that will deepen his faith in democracy and inspire him with the morality of the constituted authorities both in their public and private lives.

(12) Every child has the right to grow up as a free individual, in an atmosphere of peace, understanding, tolerance, and universal brotherhood, and with the determination to contribute his share in the building of a better world.

Further strengthening these rights is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The CRC maintains that “in all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.”

Part of the pledge is that the rights be respected “…without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child’s or his or her parent’s or legal guardian’s race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.”

The CRC encapsulates all children’s human rights as stated in various international instruments. The Convention sets specific principles to secure an environment wherein children are able to optimize their potential. In the UNICEF’s web page it states that “The articles of the Convention, in addition to laying the foundational principles from which all rights must be achieved, call for the provision of specific resources, skills and contributions necessary to ensure the survival and development of children to their maximum capability. The articles also require the creation of means to protect children from neglect, exploitation and abuse.”

Some of the rights enshrined in the CRC are:

Republic Act No. 7610 or the “Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act” provides protection for our children on prostitution and other sexual abuse, trafficking, obscene publications and indecent shows and other acts of abuse (neglect, abuse, cruelty or exploitation and other conditions prejudicial to the child’s development).

The “Magna Carta of Women” (Republic Act No. 9710) provides protection of the girl-child from all forms of abuse and exploitation, equal access of Moro and indigenous girl-children in the Madaris, gender-sensitive curriculum and sensitivity of regular schools to particular Moro and indigenous practices.

The Filipino children today
Mr. President, our children are among the more vulnerable groups of society. In fact, as compared to the general population, children have a higher poverty incidence [i] as recorded in 2000 and 2003. For every 100 individuals, about 33% were poor in 2000 and about 30% in 2003. In the case of children, the numbers were 43% and 39%. Notably, Maguindanao registered the highest poverty incidence among children in 2000, with 82% of children found to be poor.[ii]

Due to poverty, many of Filipino children have also fallen victims to malnutrition and lack of quality basic education. Malnutrition has been identified either directly or indirectly causing 35% of under five year old deaths. Meanwhile, the accessibility to basic education is constantly impeded by the high cost of education, poverty, hunger and malnutrition, early pregnancy, disaster and conflict. This is evident in the decrease in enrollment rates at 83.2% in 2006-2007 from 90.3% in 2002-2003.

Other issues hounding our children today

Poverty, malnutrition and lack of quality basic education. Admittedly, we are all aware that there is more to this, and the list goes on….

· Effect of Migration

Because of the continuing trend of migration, an estimated 12,000 children daily or 4.3 million children yearly are left behind as fathers and mothers make the difficult choice of leaving their families for far more lucrative jobs abroad. Children who are then separated from their parents are exposed to unorthodox family structures, weakening their pillars of protection and making them more at risk to abuse, early sexual activity as well as drug abuse.

· Armed Conflict

Sadly, we still have areas where many of our children are caught in armed conflicts. With the onslaught of war, many children are being recruited by armed groups. It is estimated that 10-15% of MILF troops and 3% of NPA forces are children.

· Child labor

In 2001, child laborers were said to be at four million. More than half or about 59.4% or 2.4 million were exposed to hazards such as those in deep-sea fishing, pyrotechnic industry, mining & quarrying, sugar cane plantation, commercial sexual exploitation, domestic work. Unfortunately, 36.5% of these working children were not able to go to school as a consequence of child labor.[iii]

· Commercial sexual exploitation and sexual abuse

Commercial sexual exploitation of children include trafficking, child prostitution and child pornography. The demographics of those commercial sexually exploited are mostly female, with ages 13 to 18, initiated into the sex trade as early as age 10.

· Street children

In 1998, DSWD reported that there is an estimated 222,417 street children in 65 major cities in the country.[iv]

Mr. President, we are duty-bound as leaders of this country to warrant that all the rights of our children are upheld and protected. We are tasked to ensure that, at the very least, every Filipino child has a safe and loving home, ample food and clean water on the table, education and health services at their reach and a government working in consonance with what the Constitution and the Convention of the Rights of Children espouse.

Mr. President, this is our duty to each and every Filipino child.

Today is one of the 31 days that our country solely dedicates for our Filipino children. It is my sincerest wish that down the road, when all of us are old and gray, the same children we stood up for today and promised to uphold and protect their rights, will deliver the same speech on this very same month, but this time, with much fulfillment in their hearts for they no longer have to feature similar faces of children oppressed by poverty and forced to call those places ‘home’.

Suffice to say, our children today are our future leaders. Unless we safeguard their future, our nation has no future. These children will grow up to be doctors, lawyers, nurses, engineers, teachers, homemakers. Some may even walk in these very same halls, speak on this very same floor and continue the fight for the rights of the future children.

Mr. President, today is October 4, let us celebrate our children and take special heed of their needs and their rights as we go about our duties as legislators.

Thank you, Mr. President.

[i] Poverty is seen as a reflection of ‘lack of choices and opportunities in the key areas of education, health, and command over resources as well as voice related to democratic processes’ (UNDP 2006).

Despite this shift to a multidimensional concept of poverty, the income-based approach has, to date, remained the most popular and commonly used poverty measure. The World Bank’s less than $1 a day poverty concept is consistently used to monitor the size and trends in global poverty. Those living below $1/ day1 is said to be living in abject or absolute poverty because the assumption is that $1 a day is not sufficient to cover even the most basic dietary and nutritional needs of an individual.

[ii] Statistically Speaking by Dr. Romulo A. Virola, http://www.nscb.gov.ph/headlines/StatsSpeak/2008/061008_rav_children.asp

[iii] NSO 2001 Philippine Survey on Children

[iv] Childhope Asia Philippines.

Photo: Welcomed by grade school pupils from various schools, Senator Pia Cayetano opens an exhibit featuring pictures taken by aspiring young photographers at the Senate on Tuesday. Sen. Cayetano also delivered a privilege speech on the state of Filipino children to mark the month of October as ‘National Children’s Month.’

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