Sen. Binay pushes for bill that provides for compassionate programs for parents in jail

Published January 17, 2019, 4:59 PM

by AJ Siytangco


By Hannah Torregoza

Senator Nancy Binay on Thursday urged lawmakers to pass the measure that seeks to put in place compassionate programs for parents who are in jail.

Binay said children, especially minors, usually bear the brunt of having jailed parents. Their mental development and social behavior are affected, compounded by discrimination and social stigma as a result of having a parent in prison, she said

Senator Nancy Binay (Senate of the Philippines official Facebook page / AMNIAL BULLETIN)
Senator Nancy Binay
(Senate of the Philippines official Facebook page / MANILA BULLETIN)

The senator is referring to Senate Bill 1886, or “An Act Creating Programs for Incarcerated Parents and their Children,” which is now pending before the Senate committee on women, children, family relations and gender equality chaired by Sen. Risa Hontiveros.

Binay pointed out that in many instances, without an adult who could take over in taking care of their welfare; children who are separated with their parents are likely to end up being incarcerated themselves.

“The deprivation of liberty due to the commission of a crime affects not only the person incarcerated but also the person’s family. This holds true, even more so for solo parents, who by reason of incarceration, are forced to leave their children,” Binay said.

“The proposed bill aims to establish mechanisms which shall assist imprisoned solo parents in the performance of their parental and child-rearing obligations,” she said.

The lawmaker said the government has an obligation to “promote stable and solid relationships between children and parents, who are their primary caregivers, and support incarcerated parents to develop and maintain their relationship with their children.”

Under the measure, the court is mandated to apprise incarcerated parents of their parental rights and the consequences concerning to such rights that may result from a plea of guilty or conviction, “especially the loss of parental authority.”

In the event that the accused has minor children, Binay explained that the court shall motu propio direct a social worker or a representative of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to confer with the accused to discuss various options available to the latter, in relation to the care and custody of his or her minor children.

In case the accused is unable to place his or her minor children under the care of a “responsible adult,” the minor children would be placed under the care of a surviving grandparent; fit or qualified oldest brother or sister over 21 years old; any relative of the accused over 21 years of age and within the fourth civil degree of consanguinity or affinity of the minor children; or, the DSWD.

The bill also mandates that prison facilities should establish child-friendly visitation opportunities for solo parents and children, such as a special visitation room.

“While present bills on the matter highlight mothers who may be put into custody, the proposed bills aim to remove the distinction between a mother and a father, and aims to level the playing field by allowing even single fathers from availing of the benefits of this act,” Binay said.

The bill also gives the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and other relevant institutions to conduct independent monitoring of the various prison facilities and make periodic and unannounced visits to the premises and speak in private with imprisoned solo parents and children.