4 March 2019 – Child Rights Network (CRN), the largest alliance of organizations and agencies pushing for child rights legislations in the Philippines, laments President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to veto the “Positive and Non-Violent Discipline of Children Act.”
The decision to veto the passage of this bill is a renegation of the Philippine government’s commitment to protect children’s rights. Beating, kicking, slapping, lashing – these are all violent acts that cannot be carefully practiced nor rightly administered. We want to emphasize that violent discipline does not produce law-abiding citizens, but causes juvenile delinquency, aggression, inter-generational transfer of abuse, and even drug or alcohol abuse.
The passage of the Positive Discipline bill is in line with the Philippines’ commitment to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which the country ratified in 1990. As a State Party to the UNCRC, our government committed itself to upholding children’s rights by ensuring their safety and giving them the same amount of protection from violence as adults (UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2009).
Article 19 of the UNCRC specifically states that governments must do all they can to ensure that children are protected from all forms of violence, abuse, neglect, and bad treatment by their parents or anyone else who look after them. Furthermore, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, in its 2009 Concluding Observations on the Philippines’ 3rd and 4th periodic report, specifically recommended to enact the Anti-Corporal Punishment Bill to explicitly prohibit by law corporal punishment in all settings, including in the home, schools, alternative childcare environments, places of work and detention facilities.
No jail time for parents in the bill
The bill’s primary goal is to educate parents and caregivers on how to give responsive care and instill discipline on children without resorting to physical and humiliating punishment. There are no penal provisions in the bill that prescribes jail time to offenders. Rather, it prescribes seminars on positive discipline and anger management for those who use corporal punishment against children to educate them on alternative approaches to child discipline.
The State as the legal protector of its citizens should ensure that the human rights of its citizens particularly the most vulnerable sector – the children – are respected, protected, and fulfilled. The bill recognizes the right of parents to discipline their children, but this right does not include the right to hit and hurt them. The protection of children’s rights does not end at the family door. Inflicting violence against children is wrong and unacceptable as it is when inflicted on adults.
The bill seeks to help parents and caregivers to explore options on proper child-rearing to avoid inflicting violence against children. Multiple studies have shown not only of the long-term effect of physical and humiliating punishment on child behavior, but also the prevalence of this practice in Philippine society. It is the State’s moral obligation to equip parents and caregivers with positive and non-violent discipline methods to help their children grow up to be peaceful and responsible citizens.
Save the bill!
When both chambers of Congress passed the proposed legislation in 2018, we heralded it as a landmark paradigm shift from our long-held culture of using violence to discipline children. However, instead of providing a clear legal framework for our society to change the tradition of inflicting violent punishment against children, we fear that the veto might even embolden parents and others to further harm children in the guise of discipline.
According to the 2016 National Baseline Study on Violence against Children conducted by the Council for the Welfare of Children and UNICEF, three out of five Filipino children have experienced physical and psychological violence and more than half of this is happening at home. The same study revealed that corporal punishment has been identified as one of the top three issues that Filipino children want to be immediately addressed.
Further, we refute the notion that the practice of positive discipline is a foreign import from the West that is not applicable in the Philippines. As child rights advocates, we bear witness to the fact that it is the Filipino children, not some Western nation, who are clamoring for this legislation. The bill could have protected children from all forms of violence.
Child rights advocates will continue to push for the enactment of a national law that clearly protects children from violence in all settings of our society. The veto does not spell the end for our campaign for Filipinos to choose positive discipline. We call on parents, teachers and caregivers to continually promote and practice positive and non-violent discipline and protect our children from any form of violence. ###
About Child Rights Network:
Child Rights Network (CRN) is the largest alliance of organizations and agencies pushing for children’s rights legislation in the Philippines. CRN has a membership of 46 organizations across Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.