House body OKs bill on protecting children in areas of armed conflict

By on August 26, 2014

(Malacanang stock photo)
(Malacanang stock photo)

MANILA — The House Committee on the Welfare of Children has reported out for floor deliberation a measure protecting the Filipino children in any part of the country where there are armed conflicts between the government forces and rebel groups.

Rep. Aurora Cerilles (2nd District, Zamboanga del Sur), chairperson of the House body, said the bill (HB 4557 in substitution of the original HB 1332) declares unlawful the acts of killing, torture, intentional maiming, or rape of children, cruel treatment, abduction, using them as hostages, and recruitment of children into government armed forces and other armed groups.

Cerilles also said the bill prohibits the denial of humanitarian access and or assistance to children, attacks on public structures or places where children are usually found; and hamleting, food blockade, intentional armed conflict delays and false reporting of a child in custody, and false branding of children.

The measure shall provide special protection from all forms of abuse, violence, neglect, discrimination and other conditions prejudicial to the development of children in situations of armed conflict and internally displaced.

The measure, to be known as Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict Act, shall fully implement the protection guaranteed under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, its Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, and all other core human rights treaties, particularly, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, among others.

The measure directs the institutionalization of policies, programs, procedures, and services that would facilitate the rescue, release, rehabilitation, and reintegration of children in situations of armed conflict with their families and communities.

Under the bill, parental accountability of children in situations of armed conflict is subject to the existing provisions of Presidential Decree 603 or the Child Welfare Code, the Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act, Republic Act 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking In Persons Act, Republic Act 9231 on the elimination of worst forms of child labor, and Republic Act 10364 or the Expanded Anti-Trafficking In Persons Act.

The measure also grants immunity from suit to anyone who ensures the safety of and provides assistance to children involved in armed conflict.

Criminal cases against children involved in armed conflict shall immediately be dismissed and the child shall be referred to the Local Social Welfare and Development Office (LSWDO), which will assess the child, determine the release to the custody of the parents, or refer the child for prevention, rehabilitation and reintegration.

The bill mandates the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) to submit to the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) an inventory of all children in situations of armed conflict under their custody.

The CWC and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) shall promulgate the implementing rules and regulations of the proposed Act, with proper consultation from all concerned government and non-government organizations, and shall submit to the President and to Congress of the Philippines the annual report.

The CWC shall establish and maintain a database for the monitoring and reporting of children in situations of armed conflict concerns integrated in its monitoring system.

Violators face a fine of not more than P5M and life imprisonment.

Penalties are also imposed on any public officer who prevents, prohibits, refuses or discontinues the implementation of any of provision of the proposed act.

The authors of the bill are Reps. Marcelino Teodoro (1st District, Marikina City), Cinchona Cruz-Gonzales (Party List, CIBAC), Lawrence Lemuel Fortun (1st District, Agusan Del Norte), Ruby Sahali (Lone District, Tawi-Tawi), Gus Tambunting (2nd District, ParaƱaque City), Lani Mercado-Revilla (2nd District, Cavite), Gina De Venecia (4th District, Pangasinan), Pedro Acharon, Jr. (1st District, South Cotabato), Mariano Piamonte, Jr. (Party List, A Teacher), Magnolia Rosa Antonino-Nadres (4th District, Nueva Ecija), Emmeline Aglipay (Party List, DIWA), Estrellita Suansing (1st District, Nueva Ecija), Isidro Ungab (3rd District, Davao City), Celso Lobregat (1st District, Zamboanga City), Emil Ong ( 2nd District, Northern Samar), Leopoldo Bataoil (2nd District, Pangasinan), Rogelio Espina (Lone District, Biliran), Felix William Fuentebella (4th District Camarines Sur), Elisa Kho (2nd District, Masbate), Angelina Tan (4th District, Quezon), and Linabelle Ruth Villarica (4th District, Bulacan).