November 28, 2016
The Child Rights Network (CRN), through its convenor, the Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), organized a series activities in celebration of Children’s Month with the theme “Bata sa Puso ng Batas” at the House of Representatives (HOR) on November 21-23.
During the opening ceremonies on November 21, child rights champions PLCPD Vice Chairperson for Mindanao Rep. Kaka Bag-ao, PLCPD Chair of the House of Representatives Rep. Teddy Brawner Baguilat, Jr. and PLCPD member and Bagong Henerasyon Party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy addressed more than 50 children from World Vision International, including three children from Tacloban and VIDES Philippines Volunteer Foundation.
“Be aware of your rights, and be aware of who your representatives are. Write to them – today. Help us protect you”, urged Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy.
Lotta Sylwander, Country Representative of UNICEF, in her message of support, highlighted the importance of legislation pertinent to child protection, with a stern reminder that if in the first 1,000 days, a child is “abused, neglected, or malnourished – that cannot be fixed later on.” Mr. Elino Bardillon from the Council of Welfare of Children gave their message of support.
After the opening ceremonies, the children participated in an essay writing activity and a poster making contest with the theme of ending violence against children.
True to their commitment to the empowerment of children, PLCPD members in the House of Representatives devoted time in the afternoon of November 21 to dialogue with the children.
Rep. France Castro of ACT Teachers Party-list, coming from her experience as an educator, discussed the practice of positive discipline not only in the home, but also, in the classroom. Rep. Nancy Catamco, answered questions about government programs for out-of-school youth and teenage parents. PLCPD Secretary Rep. Villarin assured the children of his belief in rehabilitative justice and youth empowerment through education, declaring, “Hindi kriminal ang kabataan; ang kailangan nila ay eskuwelahan, hindi preso.” (Children are not criminals; what they need are schools, not prisons.)
During the session on November 21, Don Bosco School Manila Chorale from VIDES Volunteer Foundation opened the session by singing the National Anthem. Deputy Speaker Abu acknowledged the presence of the children and members of the CRN as guests of PLCPD members. The said session also included a privilege hour which featured speeches of several PLCPD members.
Rep. France Castro delivered a privilege speech on the state of senior high schools in the country, expressing alarm over the compromised quality of education due to reports of teachers practicing without proper licensure. Rep. Nancy Catamco, talked about Indigenous Peoples children and the Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) and lamented that many Filipino children are denied the fundamental right to a legal identity. AMIN Party-list Rep. Sitti Turabin Hataman’s speech on children in situations of armed conflict (CSAC) included an emotional account of a 15-year-old boy who was beheaded by militants in May and was one of their football scholars. Rep. Emmeline Aglipay-Villar reminded her colleagues that it is the state’s role to ensure that children, especially those in marginalized communities, are properly nourished. On November 22, Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy also delivered a privilege speech and urged her fellow legislators to embrace all aspects of children’s rights in all of their work and efforts.
The closing ceremonies on the afternoon of November 23 were filled with cultural performances to celebrate children’s rights. Rep. Sarah Jane Elago and Rep. Malou Acosta Alba graced the event with their poetry-reading performances of pieces by Dr. Jose Rizal. The Don Bosco School Manila Choir lent their angelic voices to lift the spirits at the event. Layag, the band of PLCPD Executive Director, Romeo Dongeto performed socially-relevant songs. The winners of the poster-making contest were also awarded. Mark, the artist of the winning poster described how his artwork represented his vision of empowered children escaping violence to a community of love and peace.