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GMA SIGNS ANTI-CHILD LABOR LAW

Posted: February 2004 Contributor: Peter James Leaño V E-mail: peter_leano_v@yahoo.com

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed into law Republic Act 9231 or “The Anti Child Labor Law” 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 – 17 years old to work not more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week. Night work from 8pm to 6am is prohibited. The law also states that children should receive and own their wages. The child’s earnings shall be set aside primarily for his/her support, education or skill acquisition and not more than 20% of the child’s 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 of majority. 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 nonformal 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, “Making 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.”

Child Abuse: A SILENT EPIDEMIC* 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 Number of Child Abuse Cases Served by DSWD 1998 illustrate, compare the numbers on the left with the results of a to 2002 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. Prevalence of violence, abuse and neglect in adolescence By Gender, Urban-Rural, Philippines 2000 (BSNOH)

ADOLESCENTS (n=2704) Lifetime Abuse

TOTAL IN PERCENT

MALE IN PERCENT (n=1348)

FEMALE IN PERCENT (n=1356)

8 8 8 5.9 6.6 5.2

HISTORY OF CHILD ABUSE Psychological 5 6 5 9.7 5.7 4.5 Physical Sexual Molestation Forced Sex/Rape Neglect 8 7 8 2.9 3.7 1.0 11.9 1 11.2 2.8 1.8 3.5 0.2 5.4 3.3 7.3

CURRENT ABUSE Psychological 5 6 5 9.7 5.7 4.5 Physical Sexual Molestation Forced Sex/Rape Neglect 8 7 8 2.9 3.7 1.0 11.9 1 11.2 2.8 1.8 3.5 0.2 5.4 3.3 7.3

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.

_________________________ *Excerpted from the UP-PGH Child Protection Unit Annual Report 2003 National Situation: • Infant mortality rate is pegged at 42.73 per 1,000 live births (Department of Health, 1 September 1999). • 28% of children under age 5 are severely and moderately underweight based on international standards (World Summit Goals for Children, 1998). • 49% of the total population of infants and 26% of the total population of children with ages ranging from 1 - 6 years old suffer from irondeficiency anemia. • There is one (1) hospital for every 113,040 people. There is only 1 doctor for every 24, 417 people; 1 nurse for every 22,309; 1 dentist for every 578,124; and, 1 midwife for every 722,654 people (Philippine Yearbook of Statistics). • More than half of the over 42,000 barangays in the country do not have provisions for a pre-school. Only 19% of children aged 4 to 6 years old are able to go to public and private pre-schools. • More than 1/3 of the more than 42,000 barangays in the country could not offer the required six years of elementary education. • Sixty percent of the children drop out of school when they reach the second grade (PDI, 18 May 1997). • Sixty-one towns in the country do not have a high school. • It is estimated that there are about five million child laborers in the country (UNICEF 1995). Two-thirds of them are found in the rural areas. • There are 1.5 million streetchildren. DSWD estimates that this number increases annually by 6,365. • Of the 1.5 million streetchildren, 60,000 are prostituted (ECPAT 1996). The DSWD claims that the annual average increase of prostituted children is 3,266. The Philippines is the fourth country with the most number of prostituted children (Intersect, December 1995). • Research studies conducted in schools show that for every 3 Filipino children, one child experiences abuse (Manila Bulletin, 11 February 1996). During the first semester of 1999 alone, there were 2,393 children who fell prey to rape, attempted rape, incest, acts of lasciviousness and prostitution (DSWD 1st semester, CY 1999). The statistics are growing each day. These clearly depict the immense hardship which Filipino children are subjected to. Unfortunately, the family that is supposedly the primary source of the children's sense of trust and security is itself beleaguered. In most instances, it can no longer adequately provide even the children's most basic needs like food, education, housing, and an atmosphere of love, affection and nurturance. Its capacity to protect the children and enhance their development and participation rights is likewise affected

a look at child labor in the Philippines Child labor is one of the many concerns in the Philippines and, most disturbingly, one of the most rampant problems we face. In the endeavor to create an awareness of an already existing law that is evidently not properly implemented, child labor clearly falls within this category. Every child has the right to the most basic of necessities in life like a healthy environment, formal education, and most importantly, a loving family to come home to. Yet, poverty hinders the child to any of these things and forces labor in farming fields, mining shafts and peddling in the busy and dangerous streets of the country.

Child labor refers to the illegal employment of children below 18 years old in hazardous occupations. Underage children are being forced to manual labor to help their families mainly due to poverty. About 2.06 million children all around the Philippines are compelled to do labor, such as in crop plantations, mining caves, rock quarries and factories.

Child labor has many ill effects in children who are supposed to be in the environment of a classroom rather than roaming the streets and risking every chance, time and time again, to earn enough money. Although most do get the privilege of education, most end up being dropouts and repeaters because they are not able to focus on their studies. Because of child labor, children suffer from malnutrition, hampered growth and improper biological development.

We regard the youth as the future movers of our country. They will inherit the pride and heritage which has been earned by the sweat, blood and tears of our ancestors. Thus, they must be entitled to the proper preparation to lead this country. And we firmly believe that in forcing these very children to give all of that up just to be able to put food on their families’ tables puts that same future in grave danger. The government and society, in their own respectful way, are willing to aid in the solution of this problem. But it is a fact that it is not as simple as passing new laws but in the fortification of proper implementation. It is therefore imperative for all people of this nation voice out this concern and to be willing to truly usher in the solution of this ever-growing plight.

Article 32 of Rights of a Human Child RA7658 (Prohibition of the Employment of Children)

1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development. 2. States Parties shall take legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to ensure the implementation of the present article. To this end, and having regard to the relevant provisions of other international instruments, States Parties shall in particular:
• • •

Provide for a minimum age or minimum ages for admissions to employment; Provide for appropriate regulation of the hours and conditions of employment; Provide for appropriate penalties or other sanctions to ensure the effective enforcement of the present article.

A Co mpar ison of Art ic le 32 to the Natura l Law & Church Law
First of all, what does the Natural Law state? For one, it says that we are "embodied spirits". Our bodies are the manifestations of the goodness of the spirit. The spirit’s actions are made possible through the structure of the human person. Our bodies should be respected and taken cared of. In our opinion, Article 32 indeed moves towards the protection of these children from, as was said, physical harm and limited biological growth. It is a step towards the full protection of these frail children’s bodies Secondly, the Natural Law states that humans are "unique yet fundamentally equal". This means that each and every human being, from any social background, is entitled to the same rights as any human being. No matter who you are, or where you come from, or anything else, the plain fact that you are a living person grants you the simple rights to decent food, shelter, and clothing. Moreover, our group stresses the point that one of these due to them is the right to formal education. The child should be in a classroom environment with classmates and teachers not fellow vendors and workers on the streets. Each child has to have equal opportunities but unfortunately for these children, what they have is something short of what they are entitled to. On being "people who are open and relational", child labor also eliminates this part in a child’s growth as a human being. A child’s relationship with others can be stunted in the face of the improbable

workload. The few of them who have complete families are not even able to thrive in their support. They sacrifice time together to working for the necessities in life. As "historical beings", we do not dwell in eternity. The future is dictated by our past and our present condition. For these children, future is bleak because now, in their present existence, they live lives of endangerment and "slavery". As Luke 18:16 depicted, "Let the children come to me and don’t stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." Even the Church stresses the importance and value of these children in the Christian community. They will not only inherit the country, but the Christian tradition as well. It is they who will not only be the movers of the nation, but also the ones who will nourish the Christian faith. We as the Church community have the responsibility to protect these children. The teachings of the Church, the most basic yet the most overlooked is to love and care for one another. Yet, in the eyes of the sampaguita vendors in the streets, we know that little love and care is in their lives. Even though poor financially, it doesn’t mean poverty of the spirit. That is why, the Church’s call is not a simple donation of money or material things. The Church calls for awareness, aid and most importantly, love.