October 13, 2017
The International Day for Disaster Reduction is a celebration of efforts to reduce the risks of disaster in communities around the world. This special day also aims to raise awareness about the impact of disaster risk reduction on factors that are vital to sustainable development.
As a country that is naturally vulnerable to disasters due to geographical configuration and socio-economic conditions, the Philippines has put in place several policies that govern disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) and climate change adaptation (CCA). One of these is the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (PDRRM) Act of 2010, which strengthens the country’s institutional capacity for DRRM and builds the resilience of local communities to disasters including climate change impacts.
The law, having a vital role in developing a more disaster resilient country, was up for review in 2015. Currently, a technical working group formed by the House of Representatives Committee on National Defense and Security is studying bills seeking to amend the PDRRM Act.
With the belief that a more effective disaster reduction policy would put forth sustainable development, the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) hopes that the amendments pushed would be inclusive, addressing the needs of all sectors, especially the needs of women and children and of those who are most susceptible to disasters.
Risk reduction assuages crippling effects of disasters like mortality and morbidity, internal displacement, economic losses, food scarcity, and malnutrition. Fundamentally, it values human dignity by upholding the rights to life and property of all. Thus, committing to making laws such as the PDRRM Law more responsive to the needs of the people is one of the best investments the Philippines can make.
October 11, 2017
October 11 marks the International Day of the Girl Child, a recognition of the rights of girls all over the world and a reminder of the challenges hindering the fulfillment of these rights.
The Philippines is considered as one of the best countries in the world to be a girl, as evidenced by its consistent high ranking in various global indices that look at women empowerment and closing gender gaps. The country has also been hailed for landmark legislation that protect and promote women’s rights, such as the Women in Development and Nation-Building Act, the Anti-Violence against Women and Their Children Act, the Magna Carta of Women, and the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law, among others.
Unfortunately, despite its sterling performance at the global level and its dynamic policy environment, statistics show that there are still a lot of gaps in the country’s fulfillment of women’s and girls’ rights—adolescent reproductive health has never been prioritized in the implementation of the RPRH Law and this has resulted in a lack of age- and development-appropriate sexuality and reproductive health education and an alarming rise in teenage pregnancy.
Furthermore, violence against women and girls is still a problem that has yet to be addressed. One form of violence against women and girls that is present but is rarely talked about in the country is child, early, and forced marriages (CEFM). Unfortunately, social norms, accepted cultural and traditional practices, and even written and customary laws contribute to the prevalence of CEFM. One of the laws that have been cited as having provisions that are discriminatory is Presidential Decree No. 1083 or the Code of Muslim Personal Laws, which places the age of marriage for girls at 15, or in some cases, at puberty. Because CEFM has not been discussed extensively, its magnitude and negative repercussions remain largely unknown.
We believe that for any country, the empowerment of women and girls is necessary in achieving sustainable development and that to empower women and girls, barriers to the fulfillment of their rights must be eliminated. We urge legislators and policy-makers to ensure that laws protecting women and girls are properly and fully implemented, to uphold legislative actions that prioritize sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), and to amend laws that have discriminatory provisions against women and girls.
May this day serve as a fervent reminder to all stakeholders that there is still much to be done in closing gender gaps and that we must all work hand in hand toward this.
Note: PLCPD is part of the Creating Spaces to Take Action on Violence against Women and Girls (Creating Spaces) project, together with Oxfam, Al-Mujadilah Development Foundation, and United Youth of the Philippines – Women and with the support of Global Affairs Canada. Creating Spaces aims to reduce violence against women and girls and reduce the prevalence of CEFM. “Too young, too soon: a multistakeholder issue orientation on CEFM” was organized in partnership with UNFPA in celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child.
September 26, 2017
In a national dialogue held on September 25 and 26, advocates reflected on the reproductive health (RH) situation in the Philippines since the enactment of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law.
Participants in the two-day event entitled “5 Taon, 5 Hamon” discussed challenges to the full implementation of the law and consolidated recommendations in addressing gaps in policy and implementation through four plenary sessions on the following topics: local government unit (LGU) capacities, adolescent reproductive health, financing, and public awareness of RH and the RPRH Law.
The activity concluded with a Purple Ribbon for Reproductive Health (PR4RH) movement re-launch, wherein individuals and organizations expressed their commitment to the cause, further widening its scope.
Enacted in December 2012, the RPRH Law is a landmark legislation that has four key provisions: access to family planning, maternal and child health care, sufficient funding, and age-appropriate sexuality and reproductive health education. Yet, five years later, it continues to be beset by major challenges such as uneven implementation at the local level; rise in serious adolescent RH problems, legal barriers, insufficient funding, and lack of public awareness.
Meanwhile, the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) remains high at 221 deaths per 100,000 live births. The contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) and the total fertility rate (TFR) remain stagnant at 55.1 and 3.0 respectively. One in ten young women aged 15-19 have begun childbearing, and HIV has been declared a “youth epidemic” due to the rising number of HIV infections in the youth demographic.
“Through this national dialogue, we wish to emphasize that reproductive health is a cause that never loses significance; the fight for sexual and reproductive health and rights is a fight for all,” said Romeo Dongeto, Executive Director of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), one of the organizers of the event. “The upcoming congressional review and oversight of the law is a perfect opportunity to pinpoint gaps in both policy and implementation and make meaningful recommendations in addressing them.”
The “5 Taon, 5 Hamon” national dialogue is the second in a series of five national dialogues on RH. The first, held in March 2017, discussed roadblocks and focused on the most apparent challenge at the time: the two Supreme Court TROs. “5 Taon, 5 Hamon” is also part of #ImplementRH, a series of activities supporting the revitalized call for the full implementation of the RPRH Law.
September 22, 2017
Approximately 40 local legislators from 16 local government units (LGUs) including Pangasinan, Ifugao, Benguet, Laguna, Albay, Masbate, and Cebu confirmed their commitment to pursue legislative action for child nutrition at the policy workshop called “Leadership in Governance: Scaling-Up Nutrition during the #First1000days through Local Investments” organized by the PLCPD held on September 22 in Tagaytay City.
In his message of support, Mr. Romeo Dongeto, PLCPD’s Executive Director, CRN Convenor and National Nutrition Council Governing Board Member for the private sector, highlighted the crucial role of local governments in ensuring the full implementation of national initiatives on nutrition such as the Philippine Plan of Action on Nutrition 2017-2022.
PLCPD Chairperson Rep. Teddy Baguilat and PLCPD Member Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy, both former local government officials themselves, shared their initiatives related to child rights and nutrition. They also lauded the swift passage of the First 1,000 Days bill on Second Reading at the House of Representatives. The First 1,000 Days bill seeks to institutionalize health and nutrition interventions and promote proper feeding practices during the first 1,000 days of a child starting from nine moths in the mother’s womb up to the second birthday to give children the best start in life. The two legislators challenged the participants to cascade these developments to the local level.
Resource persons from UNICEF including Ms. Lotta Sylwander, UNICEF Philippines Country Representative, Mr. Joris Van Hees, Nutrition Specialist, and Ms. Elmira Bacatan, Communication for Development Specialist on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) presented the alarming malnutrition situation in the country. They urged participants to invest in integrated programs on nutrition.
Government representatives Ms. Luz Tagunicar, Department of Health (DOH) Nutrition Program Manager; Dr. Joseph Lachica, representative of Sen. Risa Hontiveros, PLCPD’s Chairperson for the Senate; and Dr. Grace Santiago, Program Manager of the Q1K or Quezon First 1000 Days program discussed various initiatives and updates on nutrition and the First 1000 Days at the executive and legislative branches as well as the local level.
Dr. Rene Galera, UNICEF Nutrition Specialist, explained the model ordinance institutionalizing the First 1,000 Days Integrated Programs of Nutrition, Health, Early stimulation, WASH in Early Childhood Care and Development. The participants then discussed the adoption of the ordinance according to their specific contexts and developed advocacy action plans to support the movement of these ordinances in the legislative mill and to popularize the discourse on the First 1,000 Days. To culminate the activity, representatives from each LGU presented the outputs of the breakout sessions. Most of the participants committed to enacting the ordinance within one year.
Despite the hammering weather, several advocates attended the learning session on Adolescent Reproductive Health (ARH) focusing in adolescent and teenage pregnancies organized by the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development on September 12.
The learning session aimed to discuss the current RH situation of Filipino adolescents and current ARH-related programs, as well as the contents of the bill filed by Sen. Risa Hontiveros seeking to address teenage pregnancies in the country. At the end of the discussion, participants shared their recommendations for improving the language and content of the bill.
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Philippines now has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Asia and is the only country in the Asia-Pacific where the rate of teenage pregnancies rose in the last two decades. The lack of access of minors to critical information and services on RH has contributed to the alarming increase of teenage pregnancies in the past decade and poor adolescent reproductive health in the country. According to official statistics, one in every ten girls in the Philippines is already a mother and 24 babies are born to teen mothers every hour.
“The passage of the landmark Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law should have been a major contributor to addressing adolescent reproductive health needs. Unfortunately, the provision allowing minors to access reproductive health services was struck down by the Supreme Court. Further compounding the problem is that the comprehensive and age-appropriate sexuality education as mandated by the law has still not yet been fully implemented,” said Pangasinan Representative and PLCPD member Rep. Christopher de Venecia in his opening remarks.
While the RPRH Law intends to guarantee universal access to family planning and quality services, the provision on access to family planning requires minors to present a written consent from their parents or guardians. This provision hinders what could potentially be an effective program for preventing adolescent pregnancies, if pursued purposively together with the mandatory age- and development-appropriate sexuality education.
Mr. Klaus Beck, Country Director of UNFPA, also emphasized the need to use and disseminate accurate and relevant data to present to policymakers and the significance of correct information to educate young people and communities to prevent unplanned and mistimed pregnancies.
Ms. Bea Calma, legislative staff of Senator Hontiveros, presented the salient provisions of the bill seeking to address teenage pregnancies in the country. Participants registered their full support and expressed their commitment to support the bill. During the workshop in which recommendations for improving the bill’s text were gathered, most participants’ comments focused on the recognition of the agency of young people, thus involving their participation in programs to effectively address the issue.
Meanwhile, Mr. Romeo Dongeto, Executive Director of PLCPD, called for advocates to steadfastly support the continuing campaign for the implementation of the RPRH Law and the passage of ARH bills filed in Congrees. He also urged the legislative body, the national government agencies and LGUS to implement the mandatory age- and development-appropriate sexuality and RH education in all schools, as well as address policy gaps or barriers that restrict minors’ access to information and services on RH.
The learning session was part of the Leticia Ramos-Shahani Policy Discussion Series: Advancing and sustaining RH advocacy in the Philippines being conducted by PLCPD.
September 7, 2017
In a media briefing held in Cotabato City on September 7 (Thursday), the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) and its partners—including the United Youth of the Philippines (UnYPhil) – Women—reiterated their call for local government units to pursue the meaningful implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law.
Five years since its enactment in December 2012, Filipinos have yet to witness the law’s full and proper implementation. This landmark legislation has four key provisions: access to family planning, maternal healthcare, age-appropriate sexuality and reproductive health education, and regular funding. In the same month, MMA Act 292 or the Reproductive Health Care Act of 2012 was also approved in ARMM.
The discussion focused on the following challenges: uneven implementation at the local level, rise in serious adolescent RH problems, legal barriers, lack of public awareness, and insufficient funding.
Due to these impediments, the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) remains high at 221 deaths per 100,000 live births. The contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) and the total fertility rate (TFR) remain stagnant at 51 and 3.0 respectively. One in ten young women aged 15-19 have begun childbearing, and HIV has been declared a “youth epidemic” due to the rising number of HIV infections in the youth demographic.
Committing to their RPRH Law advocacy, PLCPD continues to assist local government units (LGUs) in crafting their own RH policies.
Earlier this year, in ARMM, the municipalities of Sumisip, Basilan and Jolo, Sulu, as well as the provincial government of Tawi-Tawi and municipalities Bongao and Panglima Sugala, have approved resolutions, while the provincial government of Basilan, the municipality of Maluso, and the city of Lamitan, have filed resolutions calling on the justices of the Supreme Court to lift the temporary restraining order (TRO) on family planning commodities.
The provincial government of Albay and the municipality of Alfonso Lista, Ifugao also issued resolutions in July to support the Presidential Executive Order (EO) No.12, which aims to “attain and sustain zero unmet need for modern family planning.” Shortly after, in August, the provincial government of Benguet signed the Benguet Province RPRH Code.
“We welcome these developments, seeing that uneven implementation at the local level is one of the key challenges that the law currently faces,” said Romeo Dongeto, Executive Director of PLCPD. “We urge other LGUs to support the full implementation of the law by enacting their own ordinances and resolutions,” he added.
The media briefing is part of #ImplementRH, a series of activities supporting the revitalized call for the full implementation of the law.
August 29, 2017
On August 25, 2017, the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) signed a memorandum of understanding with the Humanitarian Leadership Academy – Philippines Center (HLA). This marks the beginning of a partnership that would contribute to a stronger advocacy for resilient communities in the country, as HLA’s focus on capacity building—one that enables an efficient and effective response to disasters and crises—complements PLCPD’s advocacy for responsive and people-centered legislation.
“We believe that this partnership can help strengthen policy advocacies that focus on climate change adaptation (CCA) and disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM), which are both necessary for a disaster-prone country like the Philippines,” PLCPD Executive Director Romeo Dongeto stated.
PLCPD is a constant advocate of CCA and DRRM, working towards the institutionalization of DRRM and contingency plans as well as the creation of emergency response teams in local government units. At the national level, PLCPD is also advocating the enactment of a national framework for resilient human settlements.
August 19, 2017
The Child Rights Network (CRN) vehemently condemns the killing of 17-year-old Kian Loyd Delos Santos, who was shot by Caloocan policemen in their anti-drug operations. The Administration’s war on drugs has taken many innocent lives, including those of children.
CRN, a group of organizations working together on policy reforms to advance children’s rights, believes in the primacy of human rights, children’s rights, the rule of law, and due process. The State should be made accountable for such blatant act of inhumanity committed against Kian and many others.
CRN reminds the government that any efforts to pursue peace and order should never be at the expense of human rights and rule of law, and should always uphold the best interests of Filipino children. #JusticeForKian
August 18, 2017
Three local government units (LGUs) have issued policies strengthening the implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law in their localities.
Last July, the provincial government of Albay and the municipality of Alfonso Lista in Ifugao issued resolutions supporting the implementation of the law, and on August 17, the provincial government of Benguet signed the Benguet Province RPRH Code, strengthening the law’s implementation in the province.
These ordinances support the RPRH Law and Executive Order (EO) No.12, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in January. The EO aims to “attain and sustain zero unmet need for modern family planning through the strict implementation of the RPRH Law.”
“We see this as a welcome development, considering that uneven implementation at the local level is one of the key challenges that the law currently faces,” PLCPD Executive Director Romeo Dongeto remarked.
Other key challenges include: rise in serious RH problems (HIV and teenage pregnancy) confronting the youth; legal barriers such as the ongoing temporary restraining order (TRO) on the public promotion, procurement, and distribution of certain contraceptive implants as well as on the certification of family planning commodities; lack of public awareness of the provisions of the law; and insufficient funding.
“We encourage other local government units to support the RPRH Law and Executive Order No.12—on responding to the Filipinos’ unmet need for family planning—and to uphold the sexual and reproductive health and rights of all citizens,” Dongeto said.
Earlier this year, in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the municipalities of Sumisip, Basilan; Jolo, Sulu; Bongao, Tawi-Tawi; and Panglima Sugala, Tawi-Tawi, as well as the Provincial Government of Tawi-Tawi, have approved resolutions, while the city of Lamitan in Basilan; the municipality of Maluso, Basilan; and the Provincial Government of Basilan have filed resolutions calling on the justices of the Supreme Court to lift the TRO.
Even before the RPRH Law was enacted, PLCPD had been assisting sanggunians at the provincial and municipal levels in crafting their own policies on RH. It can be recalled that several provinces enacted their own RH codes before the RH Bill was approved in Congress in 2012. The organization works with LGUs so that the RPRH Law and now EO 12 are translated to local policies with corresponding budget support.
The RPRH Law is a landmark legislation enacted in December 2012 that recognizes the role of local government units in protecting and fulfilling the reproductive health and rights of Filipinos. This year, it is set for congressional review and oversight, which will address gaps and issues in both policy and implementation.
August 17, 2017
On August 16, members of the Committee on Justice decided to defer action on the pending approval of the “Expanded Juvenile Justice System Act,” a substitute bill that retains the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) at 15 years old and seeks to strengthen the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act. This move was due to Rep. Toby Tiangco’s reservations on the provision allowing the commitment of children in conflict with the law (CICL) aged 9 to 11 to the Bahay Pag-asa, a youth care facility that caters to CICL. This led to a discussion on the importance of defining interventions that are age-appropriate, addressing the needs of specific age groups.
The Committee on Justice stressed that the MACR will be retained at 15, but that a formal letter containing the changes to the said provision must be submitted to the Sub-Committee on Correctional Reforms which will then incorporate the revisions before the Justice Committee’s deliberation. This was agreed upon in order to avoid any further delays to the passage of the bill.
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) recognizes this as a positive shift in discourse wherein discussion has veered away from lowering the MACR and towards prioritizing the rights of the child. We remain hopeful that this decision will only enhance the bill and ensure its quick passage.
PLCPD will remain vigilant against any and all moves to lower the MACR and will continue to advocate for rehabilitative—instead of punitive—measures, age-appropriate intervention, and accountability.
We urge legislators and stakeholders to see this bill through to the Committee on Justice and the plenary and to commit to legislation that upholds the best interests of the child.
August 11, 2017
In a media briefing held on August 11 (Friday), Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) and its partners emphasized that five years since the enactment of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law, Filipinos have yet to witness its full and proper implementation.
Enacted in December 2012, this landmark legislation has four key provisions: access to family planning, maternal healthcare, age-appropriate sexuality and reproductive health education, and regular funding.
Uneven implementation at the local level, rise in serious adolescent RH problems, legal barriers, lack of public awareness, and insufficient funding are among the challenges that it currently faces.
Due to these impediments, the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) remains high at 221 deaths per 100,000 live births. The contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) and the total fertility rate (TFR) remain stagnant at 51 and 3.0 respectively. One in ten young women aged 15-19 have begun childbearing, and HIV has been declared a “youth epidemic” due to the rising number of HIV infections in the youth demographic.
“We are hopeful that in the upcoming congressional review and oversight, gaps and issues in both policy and implementation will be addressed and that these challenges will be overcome,” said Romeo Dongeto, Executive Director of PLCPD. He also encouraged stakeholders to participate and make meaningful recommendations during the review.
In partnership with Benguet State University (BSU), Commission on Population-Cordillera Administrative Region (POPCOM-CAR), Philippine Information Agency-CAR (PIA-CAR), and the Provincial Government of Benguet, PLCPD will also be holding a mobilization and concert at Benguet State University Gymnasium on the same day.
“The youth have a vital role in this advocacy. Through the concert, we hope to encourage them to take part and assert their sexual and reproductive health and rights,” Dongeto added.
Both events are part of a series of activities celebrating August as the National Family Planning Month.
July 24, 2017 marks President Rodrigo Duterte’s 2nd State of the Nation Address (SONA).
In his previous SONA, President Duterte presented a legislative agenda that prioritized tax reform, federalism, freedom of information, and the Bangsamoro Basic Law among others.
As an organization that engages policymakers in its advocacies, the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) believes that the support and policy direction of the President are instrumental in moving legislative measures towards enactment.
As such, we are hopeful that the President will include in his priority agenda bills that champion food and nutrition security, resilient housing, anti-discrimination, women and children’s rights, and especially—given the current situation in Mindanao—the protection of internally displaced persons and children in situations of armed conflict.
Moreover, we hope that the President will ensure the full implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law, as the Executive has consistently pushed in the Executive Order No. 12, the President’s 10-point socioeconomic agenda, and the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022.
We also hope that the Juvenile Justice and Welfare (JJWA) Act will be strengthened to protect children in conflict with the law and keep them from being involved in or be exploited for criminal activities.
These measures are rights-based and people-centered; they ensure that lasting solutions are put in place especially to improve the lives of the disadvantaged.
As Congress resumes session, PLCPD also calls on legislators to support these advocacies and include them in their priority agenda.
In the 2nd Regular Session of the 17th Congress, PLCPD vows to continue being vigilant towards the fulfillment of our advocacies and remain committed to the betterment of the lives of all Filipinos.
July 24, 2017
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), in partnership with the World Food Programme, conducted three batches of Basic Life Support, First Aid, and Search and Rescue Training for 25 barangays in five municipalities of Laguna. A total of 349 barangay officials and municipal staff of Sta. Maria, Famy, Pakil, Liliw and Luisiana attended the training.
This training series aims to contribute in building resilience in the community by enhancing the capacity of barangay responders on the conduct BLS, First Aid, and Search and Rescue.
Participants were provided with demonstrations and simulations of different skills such as bandaging and splinting techniques, transfer methods, high-angle and harnessing, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation. As a culminating activity, they simulated a scenario after a disaster or incident and acted as victims, responders, and officials in an incident command system.
On June 1-2, PLCPD conducted the first batch of the training. It was attended by 113 participants, 46 of whom were from Liliw and 67 from Luisisana.
The second batch was conducted on June 28-29 with 117 participants, 65 of whom were from Pakil, 24 from Liliw, 10 from Sta. Maria, and 13 from Famy.
Lastly, the third batch was conducted on July 6-7. It was attended by 115 participants, 54 were from Sta. Maria, and 57 from Famy. In this batch, participants went to a basic training on water search and rescue, providing them with water entry techniques and swimming and life-saving techniques.
July 20, 2017
Five years since the enactment of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law, the Filipino people have yet to witness its full and proper implementation. Enacted in December 2012, this landmark legislation has four key provisions: access to family planning, maternal healthcare, age-appropriate sexuality and reproductive health education, and regular funding.
Yet, the law continues to be beset by numerous setbacks. Until now, FDA and DOH face legal challenges in ensuring universal access to contraceptive drugs and devices. Problems in resources and information dissemination at the local level are still unresolved.
In the last two years, decrease in funding for family planning has delayed progress. Moreover, the lack of implementation of age-appropriate sexuality and reproductive health education is also a major concern.
Due to these obstacles, the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) remains high at 204 deaths per 100,000 live births. The contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) and the total fertility rate (TFR) remain stagnant at 51 and 3.0 respectively. One in ten young women aged 15-19 have begun childbearing, and HIV has been declared a “youth epidemic” due to the rising number of HIV infections in the youth demographic.
PLCPD calls on the supporters of RH to remain steadfast and on the duty-bearers to commit to the full and proper implementation of the RPRH Law.
2017 is an important year for the RPRH Law. In the upcoming congressional review and oversight, we encourage all stakeholders to participate and make meaningful recommendations for Congress to address gaps and issues in both policy and implementation.
We look forward to the positive outcomes resulting from this oversight and remain hopeful that the sexual and reproductive health and rights of all Filipinos will be upheld.
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) supports the simultaneous Taraweeh for Marawi which will be held at 7:20 pm (Philippine time) on June 20, World Refugee Day.
As an organization that values human rights and believes in the inherent link between peace and development, we lament the disruption of the lives of civilians who are caught in the middle during the latest hostilities in Marawi. Armed conflicts always lead to the displacement and endangerment of the lives of the innocent, especially women and children. Moreover, they perpetuate a cycle of violence that jeopardizes the ongoing peace and transition process in the Bangsamoro region.
We call on stakeholders to participate in this simultaneous Taraweeh and continue to push for effective means of conflict resolution in the region.
June 9, 2017
With the commitment to help contribute to resilience and mitigate risks in their respective communities, 71 participants from Liliw and Luisiana, Laguna conducted a writeshop to institutionalize, through an ordinance, community disaster volunteers and emergency response teams. The writeshop was held on May 30, 2017 at Siesta Casa Dhesenza, Liliw, Laguna. Organized by the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) with the support of World Food Programme-Philippines (WFP), the writeshop was assisted by respective Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (MDRRM) officers of Liliw and Luisiana.
In the opening message of Liliw Vice Mayor Pablo Orioste, he underscored the importance of disaster preparedness and prevention and reminded the participants to take these matters seriously as most of their barangays are prone to landslide and flashfloods. Topics covered in the morning session included the policy environment, legal mandates, and other instruments as legal bases in the development of local policy measures such as a municipal ordinance.
In the afternoon session, Liliw Mayor Ericsson Sulibit gave a message. He mentioned that disaster risk reduction and management must be part of governance of the municipality. Through his leadership, disaster management became an integral part of Liliw’s developmental programs citing the Mayor’s Action Team or MAT, which provides services to their constituents 24/7.
The participants then discussed the draft municipal ordinance, particularly concerns important provisions such as funding, roles and function of community disaster volunteers and emergency response teams.
By the end of the session, an enhanced draft municipal ordinance was presented in plenary by two workshop groups with action plans to transmit the copies to their respective sanggunians.
“We need to do something for our vulnerable population to be free from threats, from hazard detection to community response” Luisiana Vice Mayor Luibic Jacob emphasized in his closing remarks.
Advocates call for a persistent advocacy for the implementation of the RPRH Law
June 1, 2017
On May 26, 2017, the Supreme Court (SC) finally released its August 26 resolution clarifying that the TRO only covers Implanon and Implanon NXT, and that it never meant to cover other contraceptives that are “unquestionably non-abortifacient”. The SC also added that the TRO is deemed lifted once the FDA follows its ruling and provides an opportunity for opportunity for the oppositors to comment on the registration of Implanon and Implanon NXT.
The Supreme Court maintained that the FDA must develop procedures for the screening, evaluation, and approval of contraceptive drugs and devices and modified its August 2016 resolution by stating that FDA decisions may be appeals to the Office of the President.
The Purple Ribbon for Reproductive Health views this recent modification as a means to a better end—a continued progress in the implementation of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) policies from the national government to the local government units.
We urge the FDA to comply with the Supreme Court resolution to immediately resolve the contraceptive use of said implants.
The Purple Ribbon for Reproductive Health urges stakeholders to strongly advocate for the implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law. The RPRH Law is a landmark legislation that not only covers access to family planning, but also institutionalizes programs for maternal healthcare, age-appropriate sexuality and reproductive health education, as well as funding to support these programs.
The Purple Ribbon for Reproductive Health remains committed and vigilant in pushing for the implementation of the RPRH Law and urges all Filipinos to assert their sexual and reproductive health and rights and to do their part in seeing this advocacy through.
May 28 marks the International Day of Action for Women’s Health, when the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of women are commemorated around the world. To the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), this day is tinged with lamentation in light of the Supreme Court’s (SC) final decision not to lift the temporary restraining order (TRO) on contraceptive implants. Indeed, this is a fervent reminder of the need for a more aggressive assertion of the SRHR of women, especially those in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas.
In recent years, landmark achievements in reproductive health have been made: the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law was enacted in 2012, and the Executive Order No. 12—which aims to accelerate the implementation of the RPRH Law—was signed early this year. However, the extended TRO placed by the Supreme Court on the distribution of hormonal implants and the registration and recertification of reproductive health products and supplies has prevented the RPRH Law from coming to fruition. The cascading repercussions of the Supreme Court’s refusal to lift the TRO have yet to be fully manifested, but the current situation already appears to be quite grim.
The Philippine Statistics Authority revealed that the maternal mortality ratio increased from 162 in 2006 to 221 in 2011, while the 2013 National Health and Demographic Survey presented an alarmingly increasing rate of teenage pregnancies. The factors leading to this include a less than desirable contraceptive prevalence rate, an actual fertility rate that is higher than wanted, and a lack of access to skilled attendants at birth.
Moreover, the 2013 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study reported that Filipino youth are engaging in risky sexual behavior: 32 percent of young people are sexually active, and 78 percent reported being unprotected from sexually transmitted infection or pregnancy during their first sexual encounter. The monthly report of the Philippine HIV/AIDS and ART Registry of the National Epidemiology Center also reveals that new cases of HIV infection are highest among young people: 62 percent of newly diagnosed HIV infections are among 15- to 19-year-old youth, and 85 percent are among the 15- to 34-year-olds. Just this March, the Department of Health revealed a record-breaking number of new HIV cases, 968, the highest in a month since 1984.
These are due to drawbacks in pursuing a national policy and program on RH. From a decade-long struggle in Congress, all three branches of the government—challenges in implementation and inadequate funding in the executive branch, retrogressive bills in the legislature, legal battle in the Supreme Court—and all levels of governance from national to local have now become the battleground for RH.
What is unjustly compromised is the fulfillment of Filipinos’ sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Despite these challenges, PLCPD looks to the future with renewed strength, continuing the fight for SRHR and condemning actions that impinge on the right of women to reliable and safe family planning. We urge the government to faithfully implement the provisions of the RPRH Law, including the age-appropriate sexuality and reproductive health education for young people. Stakeholders are also implored to remain vigilant towards any delay and take part in seeing its full implementation through.
May 23 and 24, 2017
The next legs of the Bata sa Puso ng Batas Discussion Series, headed by the Child Rights Network, were held in the House of Representatives and the Senate of the Philippines respectively as civil society organizations, government agencies, legislators and the representatives of the legislators convened in back to back policy forums on the nutrition budgets for 2018.
Rep. Emmi De Jesus, representative of Gabriela Party list opened the activity in the HOR by discussing the Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition 2017-2022 which aims to focus nutrition interventions in the context of the First 1000 Days. She emphasized the role of legislators in the promotion of nutrition such as the development of laws, conduct of oversight and ensuring sufficient budgetary allocations for programs.
Ms. Lotta Sylwander, Country Representative of UNICEF, delivered a powerful message for both events. She discussed the magnitude of malnutrition among children in the Philippines and emphasized how malnutrition is not just a health issue but also concerns food security, social protection and economics. She urged swift and effective action on this urgent issue.
Dr. Rene Galera, Nutrition Specialist of UNICEF, presented the costing study of undernutrition. Among the most notable insights from their study is that the total cost of doing nothing or continuing with business as usual is $4.5 B per annually, of which stunting along contributes to more than 50% of the economic costs of undernutrition. This can be countered with their identified list of nutrition-specific interventions which should be implemented in the First 1000 Days for maximum impact. If the interventions will be delivered with at least 80% coverage, every dollar invested can save $12 of health expenditures due to undernutrition.
Representatives from the Department of Health, Ms. Luz Tagunicar, Nutrition Program Manager, Dr. Anthony Calibo, OIC of the Child Health Division, as well as the representative of the National Nutrition Council, Mr. Reginaldo Guilen, presented their nutrition budgets for 2018. Highlights of their presentation include the increasing budget allocation for nutrition in the past 5 years and the increasing coverage of the areas where the nutrition programs are implemented. The Tier 2 budgets of both agencies, or those items which are not automatic appropriations, include items which aim to strengthen the implementation of the First 1000 Days activities.
Agency members of the National Nutrition Council such as the Department of Agriculture, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Education and the National and Economic Development Authority also discussed their respective agencies’ initiatives and budgets for nutrition. Evident in the discussions of all agencies is the need for a monitoring and tracking system for the allocation and utilization of nutrition-related budget and the consolidation of the efforts of agencies towards achieving the target outcomes of the PPAN.
In the Senate, the discussions revolved around the budgetary implications on the proposed First 1,000 Days bills vis-à-vis the feeding program bills such as the most appropriate malnutrition indicators that should be included in the bills and the recommended budget that should be allocated for both programs.
Mr. Romeo Dongeto, Executive Director of PLCPD and CRN Convenor, concluded the activity in both Houses by reiterating the necessity of results-based monitoring of budgets and addressing the implementation of nutrition programs at the local level. He lauded the progress of nutrition-related bills in both Houses and looks forward to their passage this 17th Congress.
May 23, 2017
Children’s rights advocates from the Child Rights Network (CRN) commended the members of the House Sub-committee on Correctional Reforms for retaining the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) at 15 years old.
This was after the sub-committee approved the substitute bill to several bills seeking to amend the Juvenile Justice Act of 2006.
Instead of lowering the MACR to nine years old, as originally proposed by House Bill 2 and several other bills, the sub-committee opted to retain the MACR at 15 and introduce other measures to strengthen the implementation of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act (JJWA).
“We thank the members of the sub-committee for choosing to listen to scientific evidence proving that rehabilitation is a much more effective and sound solution to the problem of children being involved in criminal activities. It is also worth noting that the substitute bill has interventions that extend to children in conflict with the law (CICL) below MACR, from nine to 14 years old. This addresses the problem more considerately, upholding and prioritizing children’s rights,” said Romeo Dongeto, executive director of Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), convenor of the Child Rights Network.
“We are happy that the discussion has shifted from lowering the MACR to the effective implementation of the JJWA—which has been the call of CRN and the PAYO [Philippine Action for Youth Offenders] at the onset. The substitute bill presented today is a big improvement from the initial bills proposed. There were some good provisions introduced and we appreciate that the sub-committee is open to further inputs to improve on the bill and to still clarify some provisions,” added Melanie Llana, lead of the CRN’s MACR advocacy team and president of PAYO.
“Advocates must remain vigilant in seeing this substitute bill and any further enhancement through the Committee on Justice and the plenary. We shall remain committed to opposing any and all moves to lower MACR, and supportive of efforts to strengthen the current law,” reminded Dongeto.
Earlier this year, the Child Rights Network and PAYO launched a nationwide campaign called #ChildrenNotCriminals to oppose the bills in the House of Representatives (HOR) that seek to amend the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act in order to lower MACR from 15 years old to nine. Filed by Speaker Alvarez and other allies of President Rodrigo Duterte, the move to lower MACR to nine years old was dropped after three months of various technical working group meetings, where advocates and government agencies presented their opposition to said move.
May 19, 2017
In continuation of the implementation of Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development’ (PLCPD’s) project partnership with the World Food Programme- Philippines (WFP) towards the strengthening of local capacities for disaster preparedness and response, PLCPD organized the last two batches of Barangay Risk Reduction and Management Plan and Contingency Plan Training in the first two weeks of May at the Amazing View Mountain Resort in Mabitac, Laguna.
The second batch, organized for 136 participants coming from five barangays of Liliw and 23 barangays of Lusiana, Laguna, was held on May 4-5.
The third and last batch had 142 participants coming from 20 barangays of Sta. Maria, one barangay from Pakil, and one barangay from Famy, Laguna.
This training series aims to review and update the Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plans (BDRRMPs) and Contingency Plans (CPs) of the barangays and to ensure that these plans will be implemented in the barangays.
In both training activities, PLCPD led the discussion of the salient provisions of Republic Act No. 10121 or the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Law. Right after the discussion, each municipality underwent workshops with their respective facilitators and resource speakers. After reviewing and updating the plans of each barangay, PLCPD also discussed the importance of adopting a barangay resolution institutionalizing and formalizing the BDRRMP and CP. Ensuring that all barangays will have sustained effort in institutionalizing their plans, PLCPD led the advocacy planning workshop.
All barangays from these two batches planned to submit their plans to their MDDRM Officers before the end of May in accordance with the deadline for submission of requirements for the Seal of Good Local Governance of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
BDRRMP and CP training for Liliw and Luisiana
Mr. Luibic Jacob, Vice Mayor of Luisiana, Mr. Allan Revano, ABC Chairperson of Luisiana, and Mr. Paulino Montejo, ABC Chairperson of Liliw gave opening messages for their fellow participants and barangay officials. Mr. Chris Raflores led the discussion of the plans of Luisiana, while Ms. Rosa Rica Encelan of PLCPD led the discussion of the plans of Liliw.
Barangay Calumpang of Liliw and Barangay San Buenaventura of Luisiana shared with their fellow participants their BDRRMP, CP and advocacy plan.
BDRRMP and CP training for Sta. Maria, Pakil and Famy
Mr. Vincent Soriano, Mayor of Pakil gave a very inspiring and motivating story about the importance of preparing and planning for disasters. Mr. Jared Baldemeca, MLGOO of Famy, gave opening message for the participants. Mr. Arlon Chavez led the discussion of the plans of Famy, while Ms. Rosa Rica Encelan of PLCPD led the discussion of the plans of Sta Maria and Pakil.
Barangay Tungkod and Macasipac of Sta Maria and one barangay from Pakil and Famy shared with their fellow participants their BDRRMP, CP and advocacy plan.
May 16, 2017
To kick off the Bata sa Puso ng Batas Discussion Series organized by the Child Rights Network, advocates from civil society organizations and national government agencies, legislators and representatives of legislative offices gathered to discuss the plight of children in situations of armed conflict (CSAC) and the action points to ensure that they are protected.
Rep. Rodel Batocabe, PLCPD member and AKO BICOL representative opened the event by commending the approval of substitute bill, Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict, in the Committee on the Welfare of Children in March 2017. He noted that it is the State’s moral responsibility to protect the children and that they were working for the best interest of the children.
Mr. Julien Hayois, Child Protection Specialist of UNICEF discussed the relevant statistics on verified Grave Child Rights Violations (GCRVs) committed against children in situations of armed conflict from 2013 to 2016. The highest number of verified violations against children from 2013 to 2016 are killing and maiming of children, which accounts for 43% of violations. Most violations linked to education occur when schools are used for military purposes. He urged everyone to consider the recommendations of the UNICEF report, such as including child protection issues on agenda of peace tables as well as respecting the civilian character of schools.
Representatives from the Interagency Council on Children in Armed Conflict (IAC-CIAC) were also present to elaborate on the initiatives of the member agencies. Ms. Normina Mojica of the Council on Welfare of Children (CWC), which chairs the IAC-CIAC, shared about the policies developed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to respond to the issues of CSAC. Ms. Bing Diaz of the CRC-Commission on Human Rights (CHR) relayed the efforts of the CHR to monitor the situation of grave child rights violations.
Rep. Teddy Baguilat, PLCPD Chair for the House of Representatives, dialogued with the participants, particularly the representatives of the bill authors, to determine needed amendments to the bill. He also asked them to determine the roles or actions that Congress can take to strengthen the protection mechanisms for CSAC (e.g. budget, oversight of related laws).
Mr. Romeo Dongeto, executive director of PLCPD, which serves as the convenor of the Child Rights Network, presented the next steps that advocates and legislative offices can take to further the advocacy campaign for CSAC. He encouraged people’s organizations, community organizations and civil society organizations to work with champions in Congress. To close the activity, Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy, representative of Bagong Henerasyon Party-list, pledged her commitment as the Vice Chairperson of the Committee on Welfare of Children and a member of the Committee on Rules to ensure the passage of the CSAC bill.
Upcoming activities of the Bata sa Puso Discussion Series include the nutrition budget policy forums in the House of Representatives and Senate and the issue orientation on increasing the age to determine statutory rape.
May 5, 2017
Children’s rights advocates from the Child Rights Network (CRN) reminded lawmakers on Friday to listen to the voice of the people and retain the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) at 15 years old.
This call was made after the release of the results of Pulse Asia’s March 2017 Ulat ng Bayan Survey, which reveals that majority or 55% of Filipinos believe that the minimum age of criminal responsibility should be retained at 15 years old, while only 9% believe that the MACR should be at nine years old and 20% believe that MACR should be at 12 years old. The results are consistent throughout Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao and across all socio-economic classes in the Philippines.
“We are very glad that the people have spoken and agree that lowering the MACR goes against the best interests of children. We hope that our legislators will listen to the voice of the people, who do not want to see our children go to jail,” said Romeo Dongeto, executive director of Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), convenor of the Child Rights Network.
“Based on the results of the survey, we know that what the people want is to see the current law, the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act or JJWA—which provides a complete range of interventions from prevention to rehabilitation—fully and properly implemented,” he added
Earlier this year, the Child Rights Network and other alliances that advocate children’s rights, including the Philippine Action for Youth Offenders (PAYO), launched a nationwide campaign called #ChildrenNotCriminals to oppose House Bill 2 and five other bills in the House of Representatives (HOR) that seek to amend the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act in order to lower MACR from 15 years old to 9. Filed by Speaker Alvarez and other allies of President Rodrigo Duterte, the bills are now under deliberation by a technical working group organized by the HOR Committee on Justice.
The advocates expressed optimism that instead of lowering MACR, strengthening the implementation of the JJWA—through adequate funding, capacity buildling of implementers, investment in human resource, and public awareness programs—is the more effective, sound, and rights-based solution to the problem of children being involved in criminal activities.
“Studies have shown that criminalizing children leads to recidivism. Detention and/or incarceration of children have also been linked to adverse effects on a child’s mental, physical and emotional development, as they are likely to be subjected to discrimination and abuse while detained. Furthermore, jailing children would deny them of opportunities for advancement through education, and future employment,” the groups declared in a previous statement.
“Now that we know that the people are on our side, we are more inspired and our voice is stronger. We remain committed to oppose any and all moves to lower MACR. At the same time, we will support all initiatives to strengthen the JJWA,” said Melanie Llana, lead of the CRN’s MACR advocacy team and president of Philippine Action for Youth Offenders.
It can be recalled that earlier this year, the House of Representatives mounted on its website an online poll on the issue, which generated an overwhelming (or more than 90%) opposition to the current moves in Congress to lower the MACR at nine years old.
April 10, 2017
With the support of World Food Programme (WFP), the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) organized a two-day training on Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan (BDRRMP) and Contingency Plan for officials of nine barangays in the municipality of Sta. Maria and five barangays in the municipality of Family.
The training was held on April 3-4 at the Amazing View Mountain Resort in Mabitac, Laguna.
This training aimed at reviewing and updating the BDRRMP and contingeny plans of the barangays as well as at ensuring that these plans will be implemented in the barangays.
Mr. Alejandro Jamolin, ABC Chairperson of Famy and the Barangay Kagawad of Parang ng Buho of Sta. Maria gave opening messages for their fellow participants and barangay officials. After this, PLCPD discussed the salient provisions of RA 10121 or the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Law.
Each municipality underwent workshops with its MDRRMO to review and update the plans. Mr. Jay De Chavez, MDRRMO of Sta. Maria led the workshop of the barangays from Sta. Maria, while Mr. Arlon Chavez led the workshop of the five barangays from Famy.
After reviewing and updating the plans of each barangay, PLCPD discussed the importance of adopting a barangay resolution institutionalizing and formalizing the BDRRMP and CP. A template barangay resolution was presented to the barangays.
PLCPD led the advocacy planning workshop in order to ensure that all barangays will have sustained effort in institutionalizing their plans.
April 3, 2017
Members of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy, who is also a member of the Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (AFPPD) Standing Committee Member on Investing in Youth, and Rep. Sitti Djalia Turabin-Hataman, as well as National Advocacy Officer Janelle Rabe, actively participated in the Regional Parliamentarians Conference on Combatting Human Trafficking on March 21-22 and the 2nd AFPPD Standing Committee Joint Meeting of Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment and Investing in Youth and National Committee Sub-Regional Strategy Meeting on March 23 in Bangkok, Thailand.
The Regional Parliamentarians Conference was composed of discussions led by technical experts on trafficking in persons and focused on the situation in South and Southeast Asia, legal and policy frameworks and good practices in prevention, protection, prosecution, repatriation and partnerships. In one of the sessions, Rep. Herrera-Dy highlighted the Philippines’ recent Tier 1 classification in the US Trafficking in Persons Report, which signifies the country’s commitment and improved efforts to combat trafficking in persons.
The Conference on Combatting Human Trafficking culminated in the adoption of the Statement of Commitment which was unanimously adopted by the parliamentarians. Rep. Turabin-Hataman and Rep. Herrera-Dy provided key inputs on revising the language of the commitment to more active expressions such as ensuring zero tolerance against those involved in trafficking instead. The Statement of Commitment reaffirms the crucial role of parliamentarians to review, amend, enact, and enforce legislation on prevention, prosecution, protection, and other measures through accelerated coordination. Rep. Turabin-Hataman and Rep. Herrera-Dy committed to pursuing actions to strengthen the programs to address trafficking in persons and ensuring the full implementation of the Trafficking in Persons Act.
At the end of the conference, Dr. Mika Marumoto, the Executive Director of AFPPD, led the tribute to PLCPD founder, Sen. Leticia Ramos-Shahani, and asked for moments of silence and prayer.
In the Joint Committee Meeting focusing on improving political participation of women and youth, parliamentarians discussed political participation of women and youth, quota for youth and women in parliaments, gender responsive national budgeting and capacity-building support for women and youth running for office. Rep. Turabin-Hataman shared about the ranking of the Philippines as the only Asian country in the top 10 of the 2016 Gender Gap Report and the highest proportion of female legislators in the House of Representatives and its leadership. She also cited the situation in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, where majority of the Cabinet members are women.
The National Committee Sub-regional Strategy Meeting featured discussions on the AFPPD Strategic Framework, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) National Voluntary Reviews and AFPPD Legislation Analysis as well as country presentations from Bangladesh, Tonga and Papua New Guinea. Ms. Rabe facilitated the sub-regional group work for the ASEAN region. She discussed the ongoing and upcoming efforts of PLCPD to campaign for the lifting of the Temporary Restraining Order affecting family planning commodities, review of the implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (PRRH) Law, and efforts to address child, early and forced marriage. In the plenary, Ms. Rabe reported on the common convergence points among the ASEAN National Committees such as review of laws on women, youth and elderly, activities to strengthen women’s political participation, endeavors to improve protection for migrant workers, and advocacy efforts on population and development for members of parliament.
March 28, 2017
Advocates and stakeholders once again called on decisionmakers of the government, particularly the justices of the Supreme Court (SC) of the Philippines, to remove barriers to the full implementation of the Reproductive Health and Responsible Parenthood (RPRH) Law.
This call was made during a national dialogue on reproductive health organized by the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLPD) on 28 March, in partnership with five other non-governmental organizations and with the support of the European Union and Oxfam. Called “Lifting Roadblocks to RH,” the national dialogue gathered almost 200 stakeholders representing government agencies, civil society organizations and people’s organizations, and development partners from the National Capital Region (NCR) and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Enacted almost five years ago in December 2012, the law has not been free of legal and practical obstacles to implementation, the most challenging of which is the August 2016 decision of the Supreme Court to deny the government’s motion to lift the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the SC in 2015 on public promotion, procurement, and distribution of select family planning supplies and on registering and certifying family planning products. The August 2016 decision also instructs the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Health (DOH) to develop rules governing the registration or re-certification and procurement of family planning products, including the conduct of public hearings as part of the process for issuing product registration.
“The law took more than one decade to pass in Congress. When we were debating this, we provided scientific evidence and data supporting the importance of RH and family planning. The law also recognizes the authority of the FDA to determine which products are medically safe and effective,” said Ifugao Representative and PLCPD Chair Teddy Baguilat, one of the authors of the RPRH Law.
“Determination of the safety and effectiveness of family planning products should be the job of technical experts, and not the court,” Baguilat added.
Meanwhile, Romeo Dongeto, PLCPD executive director, called on the public to support the campaign for the lifting of the TRO affecting family planning.
“This TRO affects more than 13 million women, including those who are currently using modern family planning methods and those with still unmet needs. With the TRO in place, we can expect that there will be fewer and fewer choices, which is contrary to the very principle of freedom of informed choice, which the RPRH Law espouses. This is a disservice to the women and men who choose to practice family planning and whose right to this is guaranteed under the law,” Dongeto said.
Meanwhile, development partners expressed their continuing support to advancing sexual and reproductive health in the Philippines.
“Ensuring access to services on family planning and reproductive health and empowering women are and should be an integral part of any poverty reduction and development effort. Oxfam will continue to be of help in initiatives that contribute to meeting the needs for such services of Filipinos, especially women,” said Mr. Richard Mawer, Oxfam Philippines’ country director.
For its part, the European Union Delegation to the Philippines has also expressed its commitment to supporting the government and the Filipino nation in ensuring that access to information and services on family planning and reproductive health as an integral part of women’s human rights and empowerment.
The national dialogue is the first of a series of annual stakeholders’ dialogue to be organized by PLCPD under the ARCHES project. ARCHES stands for “Improving the Availability of RH Services in the ARMM.” It is a five-year project supported by the European Union and Oxfam. Aside from PLCPD, the other implementing organizations of the project are the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) and four ARMM-based non-governmental organizations: Al-Mujadilah Development Foundation (AMDF) for Lanao del Sur, Pinay Kilos! (PinK!) for Basilan and Tawi-tawi, Tarbilang Foundation, Inc. for Sulu, and United Youth of the Philippines(UnYPhil)-Women for Maguindanao.
March 21, 2017
The principle that disaster preparedness, response and management is everybody’s concern and that its success rests on how all stakeholders–from households to local government officials and community organizations–cope with any emergency situation or disaster.
In order to mitigate the adverse impact of disaster and help increase the resilience of communities, the Philippine Legislators’ Committees on Population and Development (PLCPD), with the support of World Food Programme, launched a new project to capacitate officials from 25 hazard-prone barangays in several municipalities in Laguna through courtesy visits and project presentation to the municipal governments of Sta.Maria, Famy, Pakil, Liliw, and Luisiana in Laguna.
PLCPDs intervention in Laguna aims to enhance disaster preparedness and response system at the community level to ensure timely and live-savings interventions. Through the project, PLCPD will facilitate the development, updating and finalization of Barangay Disaster Risk and Reduction Management (BDRRM) and Contingency Plans, as well as capacitate emergency response teams on search and rescue and basic life support skills. Another output of the project is the institutionalization of community development volunteers (CDVs) and emergency response teams (ERTs) through the enactment of ordinance.
The project is a continuation of a partnership between WFP and PLCPD in 2016, which mapped national and policies of disaster preparedness and response vis-a-vis policies on food and nutrition security in several provinces of the Philippines, including the province of Laguna.
March 20, 2017
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) joins the nation in mourning the loss of Leticia Ramos Shahani.
Senator Shahani, or LRS, as we fondly address her, was PLCPD’s founding chairperson. She was a pioneering advocate of population and development and reproductive health in the country. Her involvement on these issues covers not only her tenure as a politician but virtually all aspects of her public life—as educator, diplomat, citizen, and quintessential public servant.
Thank you, LRS, for being a trailblazer. You paved the way for the next generations of policy champions in Congress to sustain the advocacy and push for people-centered laws.
March 9, 2017
Advocacy group Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), one of the pro-reproductive health (RH) organizations that had pushed for the enactment of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law in Congress, implored the justices of Supreme Court to lift the temporary restraining order (TRO) it issued on public promotion, procurement, and distribution of select contraceptives and preventing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue registration and re-certification of family planning products, affecting many Filipinos’ access to much needed services.
Mr. Romeo Dongeto, PLCPD Executive Director, made this call during a press conference together with the Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Gerardo Bayugo and Commission on Population Executive Director Juan Antonio Perez III.
“It is lamentable that almost five years since its enactment, the agencies tasked to implement the law cannot focus on implementing but are instead occupied with addressing legal issues such as this TRO,” Dongeto said.
Enacted in December 2012, Republic Act 10354 or the RPRH Law institutionalizes reproductive health program in the country by providing for the following: maternal health care, almost access to family planning, information and education to reproductive health, and funding.
Since then, the law has faced several challenges before the Supreme Court as its oppositors contested its constitutionality, and, after the SC ruled that the law is constitutional, questioned the procedure by which the FDA certified select family planning products, which prompted the SC to issue the TRO on public promotion, procurement, and distribution of two brands of contraceptive implants. In August 2016, after a Motion for Reconsideration had been filed by the government, the SC denied the government’s motion and expanded the TRO to cover other contraceptive products available in the Philippine market.
“To date, the most serious challenge to the implementation of the RPRH Law is this SC decision, which would result in contraceptive stockout in the country if it remains unresolved and affecting more than 13 million Filipino women,” said Dongeto.
“Addressing unmet need for family planning is a big step towards fulfilling Filipinos’ reproductive health and rights as enshrined in the RPRH Law. However, the biggest obstacle to the full implementation of the RPRH Law remains to be the Supreme Court’s TRO on family planning. We hope that this Women’s Month, the Supreme Court will finally decide in favor of the rights and health of Filipinos, especially women. We also call on the public to join us in this call,” he added.
Dongeto also announced that Purple Ribbon for RH, a broad network of RH advocates in the country, will once again embark on a nationwide campaign calling for the lifting of the TRO. It can be recalled that the group launched a signature campaign on the TRO in November.
RH advocates warn that the delay in full implementation of the law will exacerbate the already less than desirable RH situation in the country. Thus, there is a need to sustain the advocacy, inform the public of the current situation, and resolve the issue in order to see the effects of the law.
March 2, 2017
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development condemns in the strongest terms the railroaded approval on 2nd Reading of the bill aiming to reimpose death penalty in the country. The successful movement of proposals to revive capital punishment in the legislative mill was not without a good deal of intimidation and blatant disregard of proper argumentation. Yesterday evening, the death penalty bill was approved on second reading in the House of Representatives. Pro-death penalty legislators prevailed in the voice vote. Anti-death penalty solons led by PLCPD Chair Emeritus Rep. Edcel Lagman attempted to move for nominal voting, an effort that ended in failure as the session was immediately adjourned after the bill was approved.
As an organization that seeks to empower and uplift Filipinos through responsive and people-centered legislation, PLCPD is unyielding in its opposition to death penalty because it violates human rights and of its disproportionate impact on the poor. The poor have limited access to competent legal support to properly rally their cases. Poor inmates have revealed that they admitted to crimes to be incarcerated in the place of high-powered perpetrators, for compensation as well as guaranteed protection for the families they leave behind. Also making the poor more vulnerable to the ravages of death penalty is a corrupt and biased justice system such as ours, with the Supreme Court itself finding that a staggering 77% or roughly eight out of 10 death row convictions from 1993-2004 have been erroneously made.
As for pro-death penalty arguments citing crime reduction, local and international criminologists are in agreement that death penalty does not deter crime. The best deterrent of crime is certainty of apprehension. As such, resources should be invested on improving police performance rather than the incurring costs with executions. Moreover, PNP data also show that incidence of crimes in the Philippines decreased after the death penalty was lifted in 2006.
Upon removal of the death penalty, the Philippines ratified Optional Protocol 2 (OP2) to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2007, a vow to permanently end capital punishment. Reneging on the said agreement violates this commitment and imperils the validity of our international treaties and trade deals.
PLCPD also believes in non-punitive approaches to justice that will still uphold the humanity of offenders. Such means include removing an offender from society to mitigate risk of harming others (incapacitation), which can be accomplished by reasonable terms of imprisonment. Mechanisms can also be put in place so that convicts can be reintroduced into society as productive members after their period of incarceration (rehabilitation). The finality and irreversibility of the punishment of death completely give up on the chance at a life of dignity.
PLCPD commits vigilance in the particularly accelerated progress of this legislation which will negate decades worth of gains in the human rights crusade. We also call on the Senators to exercise prudence as they deliberate the counterpart bill in their chamber.
February 16, 2017
Children’s rights advocates vowed to intensify the campaign to oppose proposals in Congress to lower the current minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) from 15 to nine years old.
In a press conference in Quezon City on Thursday, February 16, groups belonging to two large child-focused networks—Child Rights Network (CRN) and Philippine Action for Youth Offenders (PAYO)—called on legislators to vote against House Bill 2 and five other bills that seek to amend the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act (JJWA) to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility, gathering experts and consolidating evidence against lowering MACR, based on medical/psychological, legal/rights, and social work/juvenile justice perspectives.
Lowering MACR is anti-human rights and anti-poor. It is a wrong solution to the problem it seeks to address. It goes against the rights and best interests of children, especially those in conflict with the law, the groups said.
“Studies have shown that criminalizing children leads to recidivism. Detention and/or incarceration of children have also been linked to adverse effects on a child’s mental, physical and emotional development, as they are likely to be subjected to discrimination and abuse while detained. Furthermore, jailing children deny them of opportunities for advancement through education, and future employment,” the groups declared in a separate statement.
Instead of lowering MACR, the advocates expressed optimism that strengthening implementation of the JJWA through adequate funding, capacity building of implementers especially at the local government level, investment in human resource, and public awareness programs, among others, is the more proper, sound, and rights-based solution to the problem of children being involved in criminal activities.
Advocates also committed to support filed resolutions in both houses of Congress, such as those by Rep. Kaka Bag-ao and colleagues in the House of Representatives, and Sen. Risa Hontiveros and Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian in the Senate, to review the implementation of JJWA towards the exercise of legislative oversight on implementation in order to come up with policy recommendations to address gaps in the existing law or in its implementation.
The groups also decry how House of Representatives Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, main proponent of the bill, resorts to intimidation to defend the proposal.
“Time and again, we hear Speaker Alvarez threatening or bullying government officials, insisting they should resign if they oppose the bill. This is very unprofessional and very undemocratic. Members of Congress are elected by the people and should therefore represent their interests, not those of the Speaker,” said Romeo Dongeto of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development, convenor of CRN.
“Deliberations should be won based on arguments, not on political pressure,” he added.
The press conference is part of a series of media events that CRN and PAYO have launched to oppose lowering of MACR. Since January, the groups have conducted regional press briefings in the National Capital Region, Cordillera, Davao, Cebu and Bicol. The groups have also brought the campaign online through the #ChildrenNotCriminals social media campaign and an online petition at Change.org.
CEBU City, February 2. Media practitioners, stakeholders from the academe, government, youth sector and child rights advocates in Cebu gathered in a media forum to oppose the measures in Congress to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) and call for the strengthened implementation of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act (JJWA).
With support from UNICEF Philippines, the Child Rights Network (CRN) and Philippine Action for Youth Offenders (PAYO), together with local partner, the Children’s Legal Bureau (CLB), organized the media forum in the Cebu Provincial Capitol in Cebu City.
The CRN represented by its convenor, the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) through its National Advocacy Officer Janelle Rabe, shared updates on the progress of the bills that seek to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility. Based on the discussions in the technical working group of bill authors and the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council held on February 1, there are proposals by bill authors to negotiate a compromise and lower the MACR to 12 years old instead of 9. PLCPD member, Rep. Jocelyn Limkaichong of Negros Oriental, urged advocates to stand firm on their position against lowering the MACR to any age and committed her support to the campaign.
Atty. Margarita Ardivilla, child protection specialist of UNICEF Philippines, and Atty. Noemi Abarientos, CLB Program Coordinator, discussed the international frameworks such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the provisions of JJWA respectively to reinforce the stand that the law is grounded on core principles of child rights and, when implemented to its full potential, will serve the best interests of the child.
A representative from the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council explained the status of the implementation of JJWA, lamenting the gaps in human resources. For instance, only 3% of LGUs have appointed licensed social workers. Due to the absence of social workers, standard procedures such as handling cases of CICL are not complied with. Councilors from Barangay Sambag II cited their experience of implementing local programs on juvenile justice which took nine years but it was worthwhile seeing the positive changes on the children.
Mr. Robby Echavez, a psychologist from Magone Homes Don Bosco, emphasized that beyond providing structures and programs, the most crucial aspect to helping children at risk and promoting their resilience is to ensure that they have loving and supportive relationships. A former CICL, who is among the youth helped by Mr. Echavez, talked about his struggles as a CICL and how he overcame various challenges, thanks to the support of his family, friends and mentors. He is now studying psychology so he can help other youth in need.
The media forum is part of a series of activities against the lowering of MACR led by child rights groups CRN and PAYO. Next media activities include: a press conference in Davao (February 10), a press conference in Legazpi City (February 14), and a national press conference in Quezon City (February 16).
February 2, 2017
Together with the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), Tarbilang Foundation, and Pinay Kilos (PINK), the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) local advocacy team of Mr. Rio Magpayo and Ms. Maureen Bugatti paid courtesy visit to local government units and Integrated Provincial Health Offices (IPHOs) in the provinces of Basilan, Tawi-tawi, Maguindanao, and Lanao del Sur from January 16 to 27.
The courtesy calls were part of preliminary activities for the second phase of implementation of the project “Improving the Availability of Reproductive Health Services in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao” or ARCHES.
The team met Dr. Rhodora Delgado and Dr.Tahir Sulaik, IPH Officers of Basilan and Maguindanao, respectively, and representatives of the IPHOs of Tawi-tawi and Lanao del Sur. The groups discussed the objectives of the project and how the IPHOs and ARCHES can work together to deliver better RH services to the people of ARMM.
The team also paid courtesy visit to Vice Governor Michail K. Ahaja of Tawi-tawi, Mayor Jimuel S. Que and Vice Mayor Abdulsaid Jum Dail of Bongao, and both expressed their full support for the project, hoping to be regularly informed on its progress.
Supported by the European Union, ARCHES is a five-year project that aims to improve the RH situation in ARMM through capacitating health service providers, building the capacity of communities and local organizations, and national and local policy development on RH. The project is now entering its second phase of implementation. Partners for the project are Oxfam in the Philippines; PBSP for health service delivery and capacity building; PLCPD for policy advocacy; and four organizations based in the ARMM—Al Mujadillah Development Foundation, PINK, Tarbilang Foundation, and UNYPHIL Women—for capacity building of women, young people and communities towards sustaining their own actions on sexual and reproductive health.
February 2, 2017
Secretariat staff of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) underwent a training on disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) planning, contingency planning, as well as basic life support, first aid, and search and rescue as part of its two-day inception workshop in preparation for the implementation of an upcoming project on disaster preparedness and response in the province of Laguna.
During the first part of the workshop, the PLCPD Secretariat developed a project implementation plan that incorporates strategies for implementation, sustainability, risk management, and monitoring and evaluation. With regard to sustainability, PLCPD has committed to advocate for budget allocation especially in the barangay DRRM and contingency plans and work closely with the municipal governments to ensure that LGUs will provide budgetary allocation for their plans.
In the second part of the workshop, resource persons from the Population, Health and Environment (PHE) Network and the Quezon City DRRM Office were invited to discuss DRR in governance, and the contents and step-by-step process in conducting a barangay DRRM planning that encompasses preparation, mitigation, reduction, rehabilitation, recovery, and the actual action plan. Contingency planning was also discussed.
The final part of the workshop included lectures, demonstration, and exercises on basic life support and search and rescue.
The training was held on 24-25 January in Quezon City in preparation for the implementation of a project on disaster preparedness and response, which seeks to assist and capacitate 25 barangays in five municipalities in the province of Laguna in their barangay DRRM planning and contingency planning. The project is supported by UN World Food Programme (WFP)-Philippines and is a continuation of a previous project in which PLCPD conducted a review of the policy environment and local situation on food and nutrition security in relation to disaster preparedness and response in 10 provinces of the Philippines including Laguna.
BAGUIO CITY, January 27. Children’s rights advocates and media practitioners in the Cordillera region gathered in back-to-back activities against the current moves in Congress to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) and in support of calls to strengthen the implementation of Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act (JJWA).
After launching a campaign in Quezon City last January 12, members and partners of children’s rights alliances Child Rights Network (CRN) and Philippine Action for Youth Offenders (PAYO) conducted a policy forum and media conference on January 27—together with Baguio-based Child and Family Services, Inc—and in partnership with the Regional Juvenile Justice and Welfare (RJJC), and the Department fo Social Welfare and Development-Cordillera Administrative Region (DSWD-CAR).
The CRN, represented by its convenor, the Philippine Legislators’Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) through Executive Director Romeo Dongeto, together with UNICEF Philippines social policy specialist Atty. Anjanette Saguisag, and Ifugao representative and PLCPD Chair Teddy Baguilat shared updates on the progress of the bills that seek to amend the JJWA and lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 to nine years old, the country’s commitment to protecting the rights of children in conflict with the law as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, prospects for strengthening JJWA, and the current campaign led by CRN and PAYO to oppose the bill.
Meanwhile, program implementers at the local level, including Mankayan, Benguet Mayor Materno Luspian; Commission on Human Rights Regional Director Rommel Daguimol; Head of Women and Children Protection Desk, PNP Regional Office-CAR PCI Divina Mencio; Prosecutor of Department of Justice-CAR Atty. Maribelle Uminga, Head of Baguio City Social Development Center Ms. Ellen Dayag; and a social worker from the Regional Rehabilitation Center for the Youth, Mr. Johnny Bumakil presented current challenges in implementing the JJWA and how these challenges can be addressed through enough funding, investment in human resources, capacity-building of implementers, and awareness raising and support of immediate social networks of children in conflict with the law, among others. These suggestions were noted
A short version of the film Bunso by Ditsi Carolino, depicting conditions of children in jail prior to the enactment of the JJWA, was also shown, while a former child in conflict with the law shared his experience as a resident of the RRYC, where he was able to recover and transform his life.
In response, participants committed to support the public campaign to oppose the lowering of minimum age of criminal responsibility.
The public forum and media conference are part of a series of activities against the lowering of MACR led by chid rights groups CRN and MACR. Next media activities include: a press conference in Cebu City (February 2), a press conference in Davao (February 10), a press conference in Legazpi City (February 14), and a national press conference in Quezon City.
January 25, 2017
This morning of 25 January 2017, members of the House of Representatives Sub-Committee on Correctional Reforms, representatives of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council (JJWC), and proponents of the bills that seek to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility (LMACR) from 15 to nine years old, will be having a closed-door meeting to discuss the proposal. Child rights advocates consider this a potentially pivotal event in the progress of the consolidated LMACR bills in the legislature. There also looms the possibility of negotiations to lower MACR to 12 instead of nine as originally proposed. This is still an unacceptable compromise which advocates will relentlessly reject.
The Child Rights Network (CRN) reiterates its call for the House leadership to practice due diligence in its course of action on this bill that could put the lives and dignity of Filipino children on the line. We appeal to the decision makers in the House of Representative to consider all arguments from various disciplines, and to observe reason tempered with compassion in the proceedings for the bills.
Before this crucial executive meeting with the proponents—including no less than House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, principal author of House Bill 2, which is one of the five bills filed—we remind our legislators that lowering MACR is detrimental to the best interests of children in conflict with the law (CICL) and would deny them of their rights to survival and development. Various studies strongly indicate that criminalizing children leads to recidivism, and in several cases, increasing transgressions not only in frequency but also in gravity. Detention and/or incarceration of children have also been linked to adverse effects on a child’s mental, physical and emotional development, owing to possible abuse while detained. Furthermore, incarceration of children results in lost opportunities for advancement through education and future employment.
Moves to lower MACR disregard scientific evidence that a child’s brain is structurally and functionally immature, which influences their decision-making and increases their tendency to engage in risky behaviors during adolescence.
Should we allow these bills to be passed, the wrath of the law’s punishment would be most heavily borne by the children of poorest Filipinos. Arguments for lowering MACR citing crime reduction ignore the systemic nature of criminality, and as such, requires a systemic approach involving poverty reduction and rehabilitation programs to be addressed. Meanwhile, arguments for lowering MACR on the basis of protecting children from being used by criminal syndicates them violates the same right to protection that it seeks to fulfill, doing more harm than good and proposing a wrong solution to the problem.
The Child Rights Network is consistent in its opposition to all moves to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility, and tireless in its crusade to uphold the dignity of every Filipino child by strengthening the mechanisms and initiatives for rehabilitation and reintegration as provided for by the existing law, the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act.
January 12, 2017
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) acknowledges President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order (EO) No. 12, with its thrust towards “attaining and sustaining zero unmet family planning need,” as a welcome and significant development in the continuing struggle for RH in the country. For PLCPD, the said order is a decisive step in the right direction consistent with the government’s inclusion of Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law implementation in its 10-point economic agenda and the pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals.
EO No. 12, issued on 11 January 2017, outlines how the government, through the coordinated actions of government agencies at the national and local levels, intends to accelerate the implementation of the RPRH Law. Said EO reaffirms an important guiding principle of the RPRH – giving Filipinos the full range of choices, most specially couples from disadvantaged sectors, for managing their fertility (including modern family planning methods). EO 12 likewise pushes for providing comprehensive and gender-sensitive sex education in schools, as well as the continued pursuit of poverty-alleviation programs all in line with development objectives.
“We thank the President for his commitment to implement RPRH Law. We hope that through this EO, the law will be more strongly implemented and will benefit Filipinos even in the farthest barangays in the Philippines,” said Ifugao representative Teddy Baguilat, PLCPD Chair for the House of Representatives and one of the proponents of the law in the 15th Congress.
“With this EO on addressing unmet need for family planning, we can be confident that government agencies will be more aligned with the direction that the Executive intends to take as far as RH initiatives are concerned. The challenge now is to ensure that budget for implementation is funded through the GAA [General Appropriations Act], and to address other major barriers to full implementation, including the Supreme Court TRO [Temporary Restraining Order] on select family planning products,” Baguilat added.
PLCPD is optimistic that the issuance of EO 12 will benefit the six million Filipino women who have unmet family planning needs, two million of whom are poor.
“Addressing unmet need for family planning is a big step towards fulfilling Filipinos’ reproductive health and rights as enshrined in the RPRH Law. However, the biggest obstacle to the full implementation of RPRH Law remains to be Supreme Court’s TRO on family planning. We hope that with this very visible show of support by the President, the Supreme Court will finally decide in favor of the Filipinos’health and rights,” declared PLCPD executive director Romeo Dongeto.
“In implementing the law and this EO, government agencies both at the national level and at local government units must also remember the law’s principles, which are grounded on human rights, women’s rights, and the freedom of informed choice,” Dongeto added.
RPRH Law was enacted in December 2012 after more than one decade of debate in Congress. Four years since its enactment, its implementation has been delayed by challenges including questions on its constitutionality and the Supreme Court’s TRO on certification and public procurement and distribution of select modern family planning products.
Retain the minimum age of criminal responsibility, strengthen Juvenile Justice Law
January 12, 2017
Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act (JJWA), promulgated in 2006, is a significant legal safeguard for the dignity of the Filipino child. With this law, youth offenders–most of whom are from disadvantaged socioeconomic sectors–will not be submitted to the dehumanizing conditions in correctional institutions. JJWA likewise provides measures and initiatives to ensure that children in conflict with the law will be rehabilitated, and eventually be reintegrated to the society as contributing members.
This 17th Congress, the protection for the Filipino child provided by JJWA, is in peril. There have been several attempts to revert the minimum age of criminal responsibility to nine. In fact, six bills supportive of this measure have been filed in the House of Representatives. The bills have already been heard by the sub-committee on Correctional Reforms and are expected to pass soon, with an overwhelming likelihood of getting the same result in its mother committee, the Committee on Justice.
The Child Rights Network (CRN) opposes moves to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility (LMACR). CRN as a consortium of child rights advocates, is united in conviction that LMACR is detrimental to the best interests of children in conflict with the law (CICL) and would impede their rights to survival and development. Studies have shown that criminalizing children leads to recidivism. Detention and/or incarceration of children have also been linked to adverse effects on a child’s mental, physical and emotional development, as they are likely to be subjected to discrimination and abuse while detained. Furthermore, jailing children deny them of opportunities for advancement through education, and future employment. The proposals to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility also ignore scientific evidence that a child’s brain is structurally and functionally immature, which influences their decision-making and increases their tendency to engage in risky behaviors during adolescence.
Duty bearers are enjoined to remain committed to making the current system work, as there are sufficient measures to hold children accountable for their offenses, while respecting their developmental capacities. There is strong evidence that these measures are effective in restoring and reintegrating children to the community, as documented by child rights advocates. Focus should be on replicating these positive results to make the law succeed for all children, not amending the said law, and in the process, compromising the welfare of CICL.
The speed at which bills for the lowering of MACR progress shows that this measure is supported by House leadership. There is an urgent need for consolidation of support and intensified actions to prevent the bills from further prospering in the legislative mill and retain the minimum age of criminal responsibility at 15.
A jail is no place for a child. We should not allow retrogressive bills such as this to reverse the advances in child protection in the Philippines and put children to jail. Instead, we should support efforts to strengthen and enhance the implementation of Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act.