A consolidated child protection system

TOWARDS JUSTICE - Emmeline Aglipay-Villar - The Philippine Star

A lot of us have experienced the frustrating nature of red tape. In our dealings with large organizations such as the government, it is quite irritating when one is being passed from employee to employee, department to department, each one asserting that your concern is within the jurisdiction of some other department. The government has done much to avoid this situation and is continually working at eliminating red tape.

Focus and agility are the hallmarks of efficiency, and with that being the case, it is easy to see how sometimes the government can become its own worst enemy. Many organs and functions of government are created as a reaction to newly perceived needs, or new aspects of old needs, and this can and has resulted in overlapping functions, departmental confusion and administrative delay.

There are times when this level of redundancy and scale can be beneficial, but when we are dealing with urgent matters or issues of life and death, speed and efficiency become paramount concerns. And there are few issues that are more pressing than those concerning the protection of our children.

And our children desperately need protection. Based on the most recently available data that we have access to – from reports such as the “National Baseline Survey of 2015,” the “Disrupting Harm in the Philippines” study from UNICEF and the “Sixth Report of the UN Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict in the Philippines” – it is clear that many Filipino children are in urgent need of help:

• Eight out of ten children surveyed had been exposed to some form of violence.

• An estimated two million Filipino children in general had been subjected to at least one form of harm or abuse, either online or at home, during the span of a year.

• A majority of children do not know where to get help or from whom to request assistance if they have been subjected to sexual harassment or abuse.

• Things are even more dire for vulnerable children such as those in conflict situations, where they are subjected to recruitment as child-soldiers, abuse, abduction and attacks on schools and hospitals.

While recent years have seen the passage of several essential measures for the protection of children – such as the increase of the age when rape is considered statutory, the prohibition of child marriage and the punishment of online sexual abuse and exploitation – that alone is not sufficient to ensure an improvement in the ability of the State to protect our children. A laundry list of laws and sanctions will do no good if their implementation is scattered and fragmented.

Without a clear and unified plan of action for the protection of children, it is easy for the good intentions of the laws to fall victim to overlapping mandates, passing of the buck and siloed efforts of different government departments. On a national level, this kind of fragmentation leads to less visibility to the goal of child protection as a whole, reflected by the fact that before 2023 there were no specific or clear child protection national strategies or visibilities in national frameworks such as the Philippine Development Plan. Without representation in such plans, budgets and mechanisms for child protection can and do fall through the cracks.

On a local level, a lack of centralized guidance makes it difficult to allocate the appropriate manpower and resources. This can significantly undermine child protection efforts by rendering them into paper mandates, without the necessary social workers or funds to properly be implemented.

What this calls for is the creation of a centralized and consolidated Child Protection System. We must create a law or framework that properly defines roles and jurisdictions, which agency is in charge of which particular facet of the law, as well as providing a single entity with oversight power and authority. The framework will define basic terms (such as “child protection” or “social worker”), create horizontal and vertical linkages, simplify and standardize workflows and institutionalize sustainability, monitoring and feedback mechanisms.

Such was the consensus of the participants of the UNICEF-CORAM-DSWD Visioning Workshop on Strengthening the Child Protection System, which took place last November. During those three days, experts and stakeholders from across various fields gathered to seek a way to improve child protection services in the country, moving forward. Problems cited included the existence of too many disparate legal provisions, with too many interagency sub-committees implementing them independently. Another was the need for more standardized training among local organizations, and the need to cascade developments to the barangay level.

As for solutions, enacting a law that is similar to that which was created for the implementation of the Magna Carta of Women was suggested. A bill to create the Philippine Commission of Children is currently pending in the House of Representatives. But we know that passing a law usually takes a couple of years, and we need to act now in order to ensure better, more effective and efficient protection of children.

What we can do now is to identify where the services offered by the different departments and agencies are overlapping in order to streamline the delivery of these services. We can also identify which existing programs and services for the protection of a specific set of children in need of special protection can be applied to all children that need protection. The DSWD and the Council for the Welfare of Children are currently heading efforts these efforts.

Greater opportunities were also sought for the capacity building of child protection practitioners in different agencies, as well as opportunities for them to share their experiences and learn from each other. Best practices should also be documented, and benchmarking be performed to facilitate exchanges of practices.

Whatever method or methods ultimately come to fruition, it should be clear now that the protection of children in our country requires a more cohesive, consolidated and efficient response. The last thing that our children need is to be allowed to fall through the cracks of government bureaucracy, to be passed from agency to agency like a hot potato. Our children deserve better. And with a consolidated Child Protection System, we can and will give them better.

vuukle comment


  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with