The chairperson of the House Committee on Welfare of Children vowed Tuesday (August 4) to shepherd the immediate and final passage of a bill seeking to promote the rights of deserted or abandoned children with unknown parents and to declare their status as country’s natural-born Filipino citizens.
Tingog Sinirangan party-list Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez said they will exhaust all means to ensure that House Bill No. 3472 or the proposed "Foundling Welfare Act" will hurdle this 18th Congress.
After more than one hour of virtual deliberations, the Romualdez panel passed Monday (August 3) the bill, principally authored by Ang Probinsyano partylist Rep. Ronnie Ong, subject to amendments.
Ong expressed confidence that the 301-man Lower Chamber will pass his bill within this year.
“I am hoping that the bill will be put to vote on second reading within the month of August,” he said in a text message. “Before October, we’re looking at having it passed on third and final reading.”
He called on his colleagues to put to a halt "the anomaly, injustice, and discrimination” hurled against the foundlings who have suffered not only from physical, emotional, and psychological disadvantages, but also from legal disadvantages, as they are required under the current set up to present physical proof of blood relation to a Filipino parent before they are considered natural-born citizen.
Romualdez threw all-out support to Ong’s measure, citing that it is one of her panel’s “legislative priorities.”
Under HB 3472, foundlings shall be recognized as natural-born citizens of the Philippines, without need of perfection or any further act, and shall automatically be accorded such rights and protection as those belonging to such class of citizens. These include foundlings who are committed to orphanage and charitable or government institutions or those who have undergone or are undergoing adoption proceedings.
The bill also provides that such natural-born status of the child or infant shall not be impugned in any proceeding all the days of his or her life unless substantial proof of foreign parentage is shown. Such status shall not also be affected by the fact that the birth certificate of the child is simulated or that there was an absence of a legal adoption process, it said.
HB 3472 tasks the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) or any of its duly licensed institution or nongovernment organization (NGO) to conduct a proactive and diligent search and inquiry into the facts of birth and parentage of the child or infant, within 15 days after commitment or submission of foundling report by the finder or other concerned person, unless more time is needed in view of significant developments.
Under the bill, the penalty of arresto mayor (or at least six years of imprisonment) to prision correccional (or at least six months) shall be imposed on any person using the status of the child or person as foundling as a derogatory remark or to cause dishonor to the child or person as a second-class citizen.
While, a fine ranging from P 200,000 to P1 million or imprisonment of not less than one month but not more than one year, at the discretion of the court, shall be imposed on any individual discriminating against foundlings in terms of education, scholarship, practice of profession, etc., delaying the delivery of services due to them or requiring them to prove their parentage before they can exercise their rights as natural-born citizens.
The penalty of prision correccional to prision mayor shall be imposed on any private individual involved in the falsification of the registration of the supposed foundling, including the documents required therefor, the bill provides.
Any public officer involved shall be punished by the penalty next higher in degree, it said.
The penalty of imprisonment of not less than six months but not more than five years shall be imposed on the finder, DSWD or NGO staff, police officers, city, municipal and barangay officers, health employees, hospital staff and any other concerned person refusing, delaying or obstructing the conduct of search and inquiry into the facts of birth and parentage of the abandoned child or infant.
A fine of P1 million to P5 million, or imprisonment of not less than three months but not more than two years, at the discretion of the court, shall be imposed on any person initiating a complaint found to be for the purpose of harassing, annoying, vexing, persecuting or injuring the foundling especially in his or her exercise of rights due to natural-born citizens, HB 3472 provides.