Posted: February 2004
Contributor: Peter James Lea\u00f1o V
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed into law Republic Act 9231 or \u201cThe Anti
Child Labor Law\u201d on December 19, 2003. The passage of this new measure makes
the Philippines the first country to present model legislation reflective of the widely
ratified International Labor Organization Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child
Labor. 143 governments or 80% of the international community have already ratified
ILO Convention 182 in a span of three years.
The law seeks to eliminate the worst forms of child labor such as those involving
slavery: such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage, serfdom,
including recruitment of children for use in armed conflict; prostitution and
pornography; use pf children for illegal activities, including drug trafficking; and any
work that is hazardous and harmful to the health, safety and morals of children.
Among the salient features of the law is the stipulation that children below 15 years
of age, if working in non-hazardous conditions, may work for not more that 20 hours
a week, at most 4 hours a day. The law limits children 15 \u2013 17 years old to work not
more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week. Night work from 8pm to 6am is
The law also states that children should receive and own their wages. The child\u2019s
earnings shall be set aside primarily for his/her support, education or skill acquisition
and not more than 20% of the child\u2019s income may be allotted for the collective needs
of the family.
Parents or the legal guardian are instructed to establish a trust fund from at least
30% of the earnings of the child whose wages and salaries from work and other
income amount to at least P200,000.00 annually. A semi-annual accounting of the
fund shall be submitted to the Department of Labor and Employment for monitoring
purposes. The child shall have full control over the trust fund upon reaching the age
Employers on the other hand are instructed to provide the working child access to al least primary and secondary education. In line with this provision, the Department of Education shall design and make available to working children alternative and non- formal education courses.
The government shall also provide and make accessible to working children free and
immediate legal, medical and psychological services. Victims of child labor shall be
exempted from paying filing fees for recovering civil damages.
The new law also provides for stiffer penalties against acts of child labor, particularly
in its worst forms. It increased the penalties against abusers to a maximum of P5
million and 20 years of imprisonment. The Department of Labor and Employments is
given the authority to close down business establishments found violating anti child
labor provisions of the new law. According to Ms. Ma. Cecilia Flores-Oebanda,
President of Visayan Forum Foundation, \u201cMaking child labor abuse a very expensive
crime is a way to send a strong signal to employers and recruiters to stop abusing
and exploiting children because stiffer penalties encourage parents and the victims to
seriously pursue their complaints in court.\u201d
In the Philippines, our children are our most precious national asset and their numbers are
growing. There are 36.3 million Filipinos who are 19 years old and below (NSO 2000). Yet no
group of Filipinos faces more hazards than do our children. In excess of a million and a half
children are estimated to live on the streets, begging for food and often engaging in criminal
activity. More than three and a half million children from 5 to 17 work under often-grueling
conditions, in spite of legislation outlawing child labor.
Although we have reliable information on a number of the hazards facing our children today, the
data surrounding the prevalence of child abuse and neglect are widely viewed as underestimates as
they merely reflect reported and validated cases of abuse. A survey of the DSWD data through the
years reflects a sudden increase in their number of clients probably as a result of increased
recognition and reporting in the community. The children in this survey were victims of physical
abuse, neglect, with majority reporting sexual abuse and sexual exploitation.
The number of abused children
reported to agencies or receiving
services reflects merely the very tip
of the iceberg of the child abuse
problem in the Philippines. To
illustrate, compare the numbers on
the left with the results of a
community-based survey to
determine the prevalence of child
abuse. In this population-based study
commissioned by the Philippine
Department of Health for its Baseline
Survey for National Health
Objectives (BSNOH) Project in 2000,
sealed questionnaires were distributed
to adolescents in randomly sampled
urban and rural provinces. In a
country with a total population of 70
million, and almost 40% of the
population below 20 years old, the
resulting figures are astoundingly
high compared to the number of
children actually served.
Experts agree that while community-based surveys may approach the true prevalence of child
abuse better than the figures from service providers, these statistics remain underestimates.
International child abuse research demonstrates strong correlations between child maltreatment
and other socioeconomic phenomena, such as poverty, drug addiction, spousal abuse and street
children. The prevalence of these phenomena in the Philippines gives us reason to believe that we
are just scratching the surface of the child abuse epidemic.
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