Pro-foundling bill a President Duterte signature away from enactment

AP Party-list nominee and former 18th Congress lawmaker Ronnie Ong has expressed elation over the nearing enactment of the proposed Foundling Welfare Act, which now only needs President Duterte's signature.

(Zelle Duda/ Unsplash)

“The Foundling Law is a signature away from becoming law. There’s is no longer a need to go to bicam because we have just adopted the Senate version considering that both versions are almost the same, if not completely identical,” Ong said in a statement.

By "we", Ong was referring to the House of Representatives, which he used to be a member of for the majority of the 18th Congress under Ang Probinsyano Party-list. He resigned from that party-list in November 2021, but not before helping move the foundling bill forward.

The measure seeks to recognize "foundlings"-- a term used for deserted or abandoned children-- as natural-born Filipinos.

Ong said the Foundling Welfare Act has presented clarity on the current status of foundlings who are regarded as stateless and are not entitled to access to government services.

He underscored the importance of this landmark legislation as it does not only declare foundlings as natural-born citizens of the Philippines but also penalizes acts inimical to their welfare.

"Many people do not know that foundlings, upon growing up, are required to prove the impossible to gain citizenship or even have their own identities under the law. To prove their citizenship, they have to show proof that their parents are Filipinos despite not knowing them at all their whole lives," he noted.

"These children didn't even ask to end up in these circumstances, and they don't deserve to be treated as second-class citizens. Let us once and for all stop this injustice and discrimination that has been going on for many decades already,” added the AP nominee.

Under the bill, foundlings found in the Philippines or Philippine embassies, consulates, and territories abroad shall be accorded with rights and protection at the moment of their birth, and be entitled to every available government program or service. These include registration, facilitation for adoption, legal and police protection, education, proper nourishment, medical care, and admission to safe and secure child centers.

Senator Grace Poe, who herself is a foundling and faced disqualification cases because of it when she ran for president in 2016, expressed her gratitude and support to the Foundling Welfare Act.

"Napakalaking bagay nito para sa mga foundlings. Masaya po akong mawawala na ang mga batang ipinagkaitan hindi lamang ng mga magulang kundi pati karapatan at proteksyon (This is a big deal for foundlings. I'm happy that we will no longer have children who are not just parentless but also do not have rights and protection).Thank you to AP Partylist Rep. Ronnie Ong, who is also my long-time friend, for fighting for this in the House of Representatives," said Poe.