Child rights advocates have presented a report on the status of children’s rights in Philippines and urged the government, particularly the concerned departments and agencies, to immediately address various gaps to ensure the welfare of Filipino children.
The Civil Society Coalition on the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC Coalition) virtually presented an updated monitoring report on the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) for the years 2009 to 2019, including updates on the state of children’s welfare during the first half of 2020.
Drawing from a series of nationwide consultations, workshops, and focus group discussions, the CRC Coalition made the NGO Alternative Report together with the 24 non-government organizations (NGOs) working on research and advocacy on children’s rights under the CRC Coalition.
The report is part of the civil society organization’s effort to ensure that the Philippine government, as a state party to the UNCRC, delivers its responsibilities and obligations.
“As we approach the next decade, let this report serve as a reminder for all child rights defenders – from civil society to the government – on the steps we have successfully taken in the past years, and the challenges we need to immediately address to catapult children’s welfare to greater heights,” said CRC Coalition Convener Allan Lee Nunez.
While recommendations in this report may seem daunting, Nunez said that “authorities and other stakeholders need to address these issues head-on as we move forward.”
The report was first submitted last Feb. 28 to the UNCRC in the Philippines to accompany the Philippine Government Report in 2019. However, due to circumstances brought about by the pandemic, the CRC Coalition was able to draft updates to the report to cover the period January to June 2020, which covers the critical period when the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe.
The report’s findings and recommendations revolve around four themes: UN CRC implementation, special protection measures, education and development, and basic health and welfare.
The report highlighted several gaps in how the Philippine government adhered to the UNCRC.
While progress has been made in child protection legislation, the group noted that “several bills that undermine children’s interests have been filed in Congress” such as the proposal to lower lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15- to 12-years-old and making the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) mandatory for Grades 11 and 12 in private and public schools.
CSOs and children called on Congress to “drop these pending bills and instead focus on passing important bills concerning civil registration and vital statistics, increasing the age for statutory rape, and teenage pregnancy prevention.”
One of the highlights of the NGO Alternative Report is the resounding issues on child protection, including corporal punishment, online child abuse and exploitation, children in situations of armed conflict, and children in conflict with the law.
The CRC Coalition also noted several issues regarding basic education, including the lack of school facilities, difficult access to the schools for those living in remote areas and children with disabilities, and indirect costs that parents could not afford.
The NGO Alternative Report stated that national budget allocation for education programs be increased. The passage of a law on inclusive education was also recommended.
The report also identified several issues related to family and alternative care, including the lack of social welfare attachés in select countries to attend to children of migrants, and the lax monitoring of the quality of residential care facilities provided by the government and private entities, thus, further marginalizing children deprived of a family environment.
While the government created mechanisms to support the implementation of the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act, the report noted that its implementation has lagged in the past years.
The CRC Coalition recommended that the “government fasttrack the national implementation and localization of laws related to tackling violence against children.”
In basic health and welfare, the CRC Coalition called for immediate implementation of newly enacted laws and policies, as well as improving identification and targeting of efforts for health intervention.
“The government is also urged to properly allocate resources for its vaccine and immunization program,” the NGO Alternative Report noted.