In this January 2018 photo, Gina Lopez speaks during the press launch of her program "G Diaries."
G Diaries/Facebook
‘Gift of love to Filipino’ kids: How Gina Lopez’s Bantay Bata 163 raised child abuse awareness
Rosette Adel (Philstar.com) - August 19, 2019 - 5:47pm

MANILA, Philippines — On Valentine’s Day of 1997, Gina Lopez founded the country’s first media-based helpline for children’s welfare, Bantay Bata 163.

This helpline is what Lopez called “a gift of love to Filipino” and one of the legacies she left after succumbing to cancer on August 19.

For more than two decades now, this program continues to protect the disadvantaged and at-risk children.

It focused on helping children who are victims of “domestic violence.” Young ones who are physically abused are rescued by Bantay Bata from the source of abuse while also raising awareness on the prevalence of child abuse.

On the same year, it was founded, Bantay Bata already earned international recognition and won the United Nations Grand Awardee for Excellence. The program bested 187 countries globally.

The Grand Award was established by the UN in the 1990s “to recognize excellence in campaigns that address priority issues before the world Organization.”

What prompted the initiative to create Bantay Bata 163

In an interview in 2016, Lopez said she started Bantay Bata 163 after watching a program which showed a child being beaten by her mother.

She said the television program showed that the neighbors heard the child screaming but did not help the kid from being abused.

“They didn’t do anything about it but they knew it was happening,” Lopez said in an interview with Metro Society for the magazine's December 2016-January 2017 issue.

"I was horrified. I said, maybe if there was a number that child could have called, then we could have prevented that death from happening,” she added.

Today, Bantay Bata serves what Lopez has envisioned it to be. Dialing the toll-free three-digit number 163 now means “hope for Filipino children” and their families silenced by maltreatment.

It has also been a refuge for children in distress.

The lines are open 24/7 and provide an immediate response to children in crisis.

Trained social workers and counselors respond to the crisis situation and parents can also seek psychological counseling and legal assistance through Bantay Bata.

Meanwhile, children who cannot be reintegrated with their families are given shelter at the Children’s Village where they are given care, counseling and therapy.

According to the report of Child Helpline International in 2009, child helplines receive 11.3 million calls yearly while Bantay Bata receives more than two million calls annually.

This program is being funded by ABS-CBN Foundation Inc., chaired by Lopez. It also gets public support through fundraising initiatives.

Bantay Bata expansion through the years

Bantay Bata has expanded from responding to a crisis and giving shelter and legal services to also providing medical assistance to sick children who cannot afford treatment.

It also holds feeding programs for disadvantaged children and gives educational scholarships.

Bantay Bata continues to raise child abuse awareness as it also teaches es educators “to cultivate positive discipline than corporal punishment in schools through its conferences.

The 22-year-old media-based helpline is also now present all over the country with desks lodged in Manila, Laguna, Bicol, Cebu, Iloilo, Negros, Davao, Zamboanga, Soccsksargen and now Northern Mindanao

BANTAY BATA 163 CHILD ABUSE CHILD WELFARE GINA LOPEZ
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