Who will speak up for our children?

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Friday, 10 December 2010 - Last Updated on December 10, 2010


“Stand up, Speak up , Stop Discrimination” stands out from the the banners near the doors of the the House of Representatives . Human Rights Day 2010 on December 10, 2010 recognizes the work of human rights defenders worldwide who act to end discrimination. Walking towards the South Wing, I spotted an exhibit of victims of human rights violation such as photos of the Morong 43, missing victims along with art works. Two paintings caught my attention. Its theme centered on child violence This made me ponder over human rights for children.

A conversation with a friend made me realize that our kids don’t have a voice unless an adults speaks up  for them. When a child is caught in a tussle when their parents are hitting each other, who will speak for this child?  A child can be silently suffering from domestic abuse, bullying and corporal punishment.


Children, victims of abuse

During President Benigno Aquino III’s first 5 months in office, it has been reported by the Children’s Rehabilitation Center that there were “six cases of frustrated murder, 4 torture cases, 2 illegal arrest and detention cases, and 2 rape cases – all involving youths.” Another 136 children were affected by forcible evacuation in the same period. , Liberty Dipon, council of leaders president of child rights group Salinlahi claims soldiers were alleged involved in all of the cases. There have also been reports “of minors being recruited to join the CAFGU [Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit] either by means of force or by joining young adult organizations such as YMCA”.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) allege that children continue to be subjected to widespread abuse and violence under Oplan Bantay Laya. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) “ has been utilizing minors in its dirty war against the New People’s Army (NPA) and the revolutionary masses. AFP units have been recruiting minors into their paramilitary units, forcing children to serve as guides in military operations.”

CPP presented ” “Boy” (not his real name), a 17 year old boy, of Brgy. Tagaytay, Magsaysay, Davao del Sur who “was forced to join a special operation of the 39th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army July to penetrate an NPA camp and steal weapons.” There are certainly more violations of children’s rights being committed by the AFP with “impunity in its desperation to suppress the people’s revolutionary resistance with utter brutality, terror and psywar” , as the CPP cited other examples.


Children, victims of violence

Do we really know how many Filipino school children have become victims of violence?

stop-child-abuseThe answer: “7 out of 10 public school children in Grades 4-6 and high school, and 4 out of 10 public school children in Grades 1 to 3”, according to the study, Towards A Child-Friendly Education Environment: A Baseline Study on Violence Against Children in Public Schools. Forms of violence are either sexual, verbal or physical. Highlights of the findings show different patterns of violence:

  • psychological/verbal violence was the form of violence most commonly experienced by the children who participated in the study, particularly being ridiculed, teased, humiliated or degraded
  • A distinct finding was the children’s view of being ignored or not spoken to as a form of psychological/verbal violence.
  • Being cursed, shouted at or spoken to using harsh language had the second highest incidence across all grade/year level categories,
  • Boys were threatened more, while girls were the ones who were more deliberately ignored.
  • Physical violence came in the form of being pinched (kinurot), had things thrown at the child, spanked, hit using hands or an object, made to stand under the sun, and locked in a room or enclosed space.
  • Children suffer more acts of violence from peers than from adults. For younger children, though, physical violence came from adults more often.
  • Sexual violence, on the other hand, was committed against children when they were spoken to in a sexually offensive manner, touched inappropriately, kissed, and forced to have sex.
  • Across all age ranges, a total of 12.82% of the children also cited having been touched inappropriately.
  • Experiences of violence usually result in low self-esteem, fear, anger and helplessness among children
  • Family background and personal circumstances, influence of peers and media, lack of awareness about children’s rights, fear, inability of authority figures to respond to cases, and lack of policies are some of the factors cited as contributing to incidences of violence in schools.
  • Children and adults recommend awareness raising and capacity building activities for parents, teachers and children, clear policies, and collaborativemeasures that involve all stakeholders including community leaders as measures to address violence against children in schools.
  • According to Education Undersecretary Alberto T. Muyot, violence committed against children affects them even causing them not to even show up in class. The good news is that “the Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and NGO groups like UNICEF, CWC, and Plan International pledged to work together to have child-friendly public schools in the country.


    Clear agenda on Children’s welfare

    childrens-rights1There are many more children needing special protection (CNSP). The CNSP “includes child labor; children-victims of sexual abuse and commercial sexual exploitation; abandoned and neglected or children without primary caregivers; children of indigenous cultural groups; child-victims of disasters; children in situations of armed conflict; street children; and, children in conflict with the law.”

    While the violence are not too obvious in schools, other forms of violence against Filipino children are committed “through physical and psychological abuse/deprivation that manifest in the worst forms of child labor, child prostitution, begging in the streets, abandonment, trafficking and /or recruitment as soldiers or couriers in areas of armed conflict.”

    Who will speak for these children? The children cannot speak out for themselves. While hundreds are striving to shed light on violations of children’s rights, there is a great personal cost to themselves and their families. Children rights advocates rely on the freedom to speak out

    President Aquino clearly stated in his speech on Human Rights day that “violators of human rights will be held accountable for their actions, and the state will protect, with unflagging commitment, the rights of all its citizens. Let this be a concrete example of how our administration is working in the broad light of day to build a country where the law protects us equally.”

    The president’s commitment to human rights is a commendable move but it is hoped that a clear agenda pertaining to Filipino children’s welfare will be established.

    Uphold children’s rights and the protection of our human rights ‘defenders.


    Photos by Noemi Lardizabal-Dado. Human Rights Day poster from United Nations. Some Rights Reserved

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