No corporal punishment of kids: House

By on February 4, 2017

Congress of the Philippines. (Malacanang stock photo)
Congress of the Philippines. (Malacanang stock photo)

The House committee on the welfare of children this week approved a bill which seeks to ban the practice of corporal punishment, preferring instead the method of non-violent discipline of children.

House Bill 516, otherwise known as “An Act Promoting Positive and Non-Violent Discipline of Children and Appropriating Funds Therefor”, is authored by Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy (Party-list, Bagong Henerasyon).

The committee chaired by Rep. Divina Grace Yu (1st District, Zamboanga del Sur) likewise moved to adopt the 16th Congress third reading version of the proposal as substitute for House Bill No. 516.

Yu said during the meeting that similar measures were already studied and deliberated upon by the committee since the 14th Congress.

“Since then, this bill has already gone through a lot of honing. We have consistently transmitted this to the Senate, but apparently they never got the chance to approve it,” Yu said.

Yu said the committee could not invoke Section 48 of the House rules since the bill that was up for committee consideration then was not the exact bill approved on third reading in the immediate preceding Congress.

Section 48 of the Rules of the House of Representatives 16th Congress states: “Section 48. Bills and Resolutions Acted Upon. — When a committee action on a bill or resolution is favorable, the bill or resolution and the corresponding report together with other supporting documents and information materials shall, together with electronic copies thereof, be filed with the Secretary General, who shall assign a number to the report. Thereafter, the sponsoring committee shall transmit the same to the Committee on Rules in such number of copies as required by said committee together with the electronic copy thereof.

In case of bills or resolutions previously filed in the immediately preceding Congress which have been considered and reported out by a particular committee, the same may be disposed of as matters already reported upon the approval of majority of the Members of the committee present, there being a quorum.

The committee secretary shall immediately prepare the necessary committee reports on said measures for inclusion in the Calendar of Business.”

Yu said Section 4 of the bill enumerates specific techniques in promoting positive discipline.

This provision was replaced in the 16th Congress with parameters in using positive discipline as some organizations felt that at least one of the techniques enumerated such as timeout was not appropriate, Yu explained.

Yu further explained it was then agreed upon that the parameters should be determined by Congress and these techniques are more appropriately placed in the IRR (implementing rules and regulations).

Herrera-Dy, committee vice chairperson, said in her sponsorship remarks that it is high time to recognize the antiquity and ineffectivity of conventional methods of discipline.

Herrera-Dy said studies have shown that discipline through corporal punishment produces more non-positive effects whatsoever.

“Most often, corporal punishment only produces anger, resentment and low esteem among children. Furthermore it only teaches the child that violence is an acceptable behavior and become something worthy of emulation,” Herrera-Dy said.

She said children need to be set on the right path, but the manner of such discipline does not have to entail the infliction of any physical or emotional pain since there are alternative modes of disciplining children that are positive, non-violent and non-abusive.

The bill seeks to prohibit corporal punishment and all other forms of humiliating or degrading punishment of children in all settings.

It seeks to strengthen the country’s laws, policies and programs in respecting child’s rights, human dignity, physical integrity and equal protection of law in compliance with the Philippine Government’s obligation to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

It specifically outlines all prohibited forms of corporal punishment upon children whether physically or emotionally impacting regardless of whoever is the perpetrator of the abuse.

Herrera-Dy said it is high time to break the vicious cycle of violence. “I now urge this committee to embrace these aspects of children’s rights. We simply must change the way children are treated in order for a true and positive change to begin within our youth,” said Herrera-Dy.

Herrera-Dy said she is amenable to adopt the 16th Congress bill in order to fast-track the approval of the bill.

“The intents and purposes of the bills are the same. It’s just that several details are different. Everything that is in the content of the 15th House version is already in the 16th House version,” she said.

The 16th Congress bill on promoting positive and non-violent discipline of children carries several key provisions namely: it mandates the formulation and implementation of a comprehensive program to promote positive and non-violent discipline instead corporal punishment of children; it provides for a continuing information dissemination campaign on the benefits and techniques of possible and non-violent discipline; it identifies acts that constitute corporal discipline; and imposes upon all persons entrusted with the child the maximum penalties provided for under existing laws, among others.

Several guest speakers from various agencies expressed their position on the use of corporal punishment as way of disciplining children.

Liane Alampay, a doctor and psychology professor at the Ateneo de Manila University, said based on their research, the science argument against corporal punishment is very strong and very consistent.

Alampay said spanking, harsh physical and even harsh verbal discipline predict negative child outcome.

“Simply put, kids who are spanked become more aggressive,” she said.

Alampay said even those who experience milder forms of punishment, including spanking, experience more negative outcomes compared to children who are never spanked.

“Some of the negative child outcomes include aggression, anti-social and delinquent behavior and overall poor psychological adjustment,” Alampay said.

Ted Olney, country director of Save the Children, said there is ample evidence of the widespread nature of corporal punishment in the country.

“The amount of violence, including the more recent UNICEF violence against children study, demonstrates the level of psychological, sexual and physical abuse of children is still quite significant,” he said.

But Olney said there is also ample evidence not only from around the world but also in communities and families in the Philippines that have practiced positive discipline that it is more effective.

Alberto Muyot, Undersecretary of the Department of Education (DepEd) said while the bill banning corporal punishment has been pending in Congress, the agency in 2012 came out with a child protection policy through DepEd Order No. 40.

But despite the child protection policy, Muyot said child abuse in schools which includes corporal punishment increases from year to year.

“We thought that a prohibition would be enough but then we learned that it would never be enough to prohibit the commission of acts of corporal punishment,” he said.

Rep. Alexandria Gonzales (Lone District, Mandaluyong City) asked how DepEd deals with incidence of child abuse in schools.

“Do they suspend the teachers or reshuffle them to other schools? Gonzales asked.

Muyot said the DepEd filed administrative cases against erring teaching and non–teaching personnel.

“At the same time that we have the DepEd administrative procedure some parents actually filed cases with the Office of the Ombudsman or with the Civil Service Commission,” he said.

Muyot said in simple cases, this has been prosecuted as simple misconduct where the penalty is suspension of more than six months. “There are severe cases where cases are sexual in nature, this is usually punished with dismissal from the service,” he said.

Other agencies that expressed full support for the urgent passage of the measure are the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Health (DOH), the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Plan International Inc., World Vision, Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), Child Rights Network and the Council for the Welfare of Children, among others.