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Filipino children voice out issues, call on gov’t to take action

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MANILA - Some 32 children from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao have gathered in an event in observance of the World Children’s Day to voice out their issues and call on the government to take action. 

Supported by the UNICEF and the Child Rights Network (CRN), the event, held Thursday (Nov. 23) at the Museo Pambata in Manila provided a platform for children to voice out their concerns and share individual experiences. 

Four young speakers nominated by their peers passionately spoke about issues such as: sexual exploitation and abuse of children; lack of access to social services with special focus on children from indigenous communities; physical and humiliating punishment; teenage pregnancy and adolescent reproductive health. 

“Jophet”, a child participant said children are still subjected to corporal punishment, they are beaten, not fed, made to kneel on mung beans, salt, rice, hanged inside a sack and other punishments no one would think a parent could do to their children. 

As the voice for the Filipino youth, “Jophet” calls for the passage of House Bill 4907 or the Positive and Non-Violent Discipline, to put an end to corporal punishment. Reinforce the implementation of functional Barangay Council for the Protection of Children is another suggestion to ensure that rights of children will be protected. 

He cited the National Baseline Study on Violence Against Children released last year, which disclosed that three out of five people suffer both physical and psychological abuse during their childhood. This could be in the form of physical violence, verbal abuse or even abandonment. 

On teenage pregnancy issue, “Unice”, another child participant said the government must ensure that services and assistance are given to females who became mothers at a young age. 

Citing data from the Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study, “Unice” said that 20.8 percent of the youth in 2013 have limited or no knowledge about sex, a 3.1-percent increase from the last figure in 1994. 

The same data revealed that people who experienced early sexual encounter increased by over 10 percent in the last 20 years. 

Another child participant suggested that the age of sexual consent must be raised from 12 to 18 years old, so as to prevent sexual abuse on minors. 

He also asked law enforcement agencies to implement in the entire country laws like Republic Act (RA) 7610 that protects children from abuse, exploitation and discrimination; RA 8353 or the Anti-Rape Law and RA 9775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Act. 

“Rodeliza” deplores the lack of services for children of Indigenous People (IP), Internally Displaced People, and Out-of-school youth. 

She pointed out IP children experienced suffering because of policies, programs and services are not sensitive to the culture, traditions and beliefs of IPs. 

UNICEF Philippine Representative Lotta Sylwander, in her closing remarks after listening to the speakers at the event said the children send strong messages on how the adults treat the younger ones. 

“Progress and prosperity means a little when children suffer due to persistent poverty and preventable ills,” Sylwander said. 

She encouraged everyone to pledge utmost attention and urgent action to children in creating a better, safer, healthier and brighter life for every child. (PIA-NCR/RJB/SDL)

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