Senate passes proposed Expanded Solo Parents Welfare law
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate on Monday approved on third and final reading a bill expanding the range of benefits and coverage under the current Solo Parents’ Welfare Act.
Voting 22-0, senators passed Senate Bill No. 1411 or the proposed Expanded Solo Parents Welfare Act.
“The Senate has come together to lift up an invisible and marginalized segment of our population,” said Sen. Risa Hontiveros, sponsor of the bill and chairperson of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality.
Among the salient features of the measure include automatic PhilHealth coverage to solo parents and their children, the provision of a P1,000 monthly cash subsidy for each indigent solo parent, and apprenticeship programs for eligible solo parents and their children under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
The bill also pushes for a comprehensive package of social protection for solo parents, which includes livelihood opportunities, legal advice and assistance, counseling services, parent effectiveness services, and stress debriefing, among others, regardless of financial status.
Solo parents shall also be given preference in government housing projects, according to the proposed law.
On top of leave privileges under existing laws, the bill further grants solo parents working in the government and the private sector an additional seven-day parental leave with pay and be given priority in telecommuting arrangements with their employers.
The measure, meanwhile, puts in place safeguards against abuse, stating that the absence of a valid and legal marriage between a mother and father of a child does not automatically entitle either individual to benefits under the proposed law.
The bill requires the submission of a sworn affidavit declaring that the solo parent is not cohabiting with a partner or co-parent, and has custody and bears the sole parental responsibility over the child or children. An identification card shall be issued to solo parents.
If enacted into law, the bill will expand the definition of “solo parent” to include the wife or husband of a low or semi-skilled overseas Filipino worker, such as construction and factory workers and domestic workers, who has continuously worked abroad for 12 months or more.
Foster parents recognized by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, legal guardians acknowledged by the court, and relatives who have the sole responsibility for caring for a child are also qualified as solo parents, according to the bill.
“Kinikilala natin na maraming klase ng ‘solo parent.’ Kinikilala rin natin na mas mahaba ang responsibilidad ng mga solo parents ngayon, lalo na sa usapin ng edukasyon dahil sa kasalukuyang K-12 system,” Hontiveros said.
(We recognize that there are various kinds of solo parents. We also recognize that the responsibility of solo parents today is expanded, especially with the current K-12 system.)
“Kaya naman imbes na 18 years old lang, pwede pa ring makatanggap ng benepisyo ang solo parent hanggang tumuntong ang aming dependent ng 22 years old,” she added.
(That’s why instead of 18 years old, solo parents with dependents as old as 22 years old will still be entitled to benefits.)
As she lauded the passage of the measure in the chamber, Hontiveros recalled her own experience as a solo parent.
“I have not just born witness to the difficulties and travails of solo parents, I have actually lived them. I became a solo parent after my husband suddenly passed away, with my youngest Sinta just three years old,” she said.
“Natutunan ko paano pagkasyahin ang sweldo para mabayaran ang bills sa bahay, naranasan ko paano magbayad ng tuition ng installment – monthly po take note, hindi quarterly or semi-annual,” she added.
(I learned to budget my salary to pay house bills, I experienced paying for my kids’ tuition fees in installments—monthy, not quarterly or semi-annual.)
Hontiveros also stressed that the challenges faced by solo parents are aggravated by the effects of the pandemic.
“At ngayong may pandemya, ang ganitong mga paghihirap ay lalong umigting. Bukod sa kailangang magtrabaho, biglang kailangan namin maging teacher sa aming anak. Pag may magkasakit, COVID man o hindi, wipe out ang konting ipon at walang kahalili sa gastos,” the senator said.
(And now with the pandemic, these challenges are aggravated. Aside from needing to work, us solo parents also serve as teachers to our children. When they get sick, whether COVID or not, the little savings we have get wiped out and we have no one to share this burden with.)
“Ang pagpasa ng Expanded Solo Parents Welfare Act ay pagpapatunay na ang solo parents ay may mga kakampi sa gubyerno. May mga handang tumulong para mapagaan pa ang ‘solo’ naming dinadala,” she added.
(The passage of the Expanded Solo Parents Act shows that solo parents have allies in the government. Those who are willing to lift the burden they are carrying on their own. )
The House of Representatives approved its version of the bill in January this year.
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