Solons OK with stiffer child abuse penalties; lukewarm on jailing parents
MANILA, Philippines — While there was unanimous support for the amendment of current laws to ensure stiffer penalty for child abuse, lawmakers and resource persons issued concerns with proposals to provide prison terms as penalties for parents in some scenarios.
During the hearing of the House committee on the welfare of children on Monday, Save the Children advocacy manager Emma Salmani raised concerns about provisions in House Bill (HB) No. 226, where parents may be jailed for neglect or exposing children to various abuse.
HB No. 226 seeks to amend Republic Act No. 7610 Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act by including several additional wordings, including prison terms for parents, guardians, or adult custodian who may be found liable for neglect.
Salmani said that there have been studies which stated that jailing parents, instead of orienting or reprimanding them, has more negative effects on a child in the long run.
“We support the increase in penalty for the commission of the offenses. However, we have some reservations on imposition of imprisonment as proposed in House Bill No. 226, to parents, legal guardians, and adult caregivers who have custody of the child on the basis of the best interest of the child,” she told the House panel.
“Studies have shown that incarceration of parents have negative impact on the child, especially on the child’s access to food, on the child’s mental health, social behavior, and the child’s educational prospects,” she added.
Salmani also appealed to lawmakers to reconsider this in the consolidated version of the bills discussed earlier.
“So if ever this penalty will be included in the proposed measure, we appeal that serious consideration be made before this is included, taking into account the best interest of the child.” she said.
The House panel discussed three bills in particular: HB No. 226; HB No. 2747 and 5934 which seek to impose heavier penalties for child prostitution and sexual abuse; and HB No. 5140 which also seeks to impose imprisonment and fines if children are employed in scenarios not allowed by the law.
All of the bills mentioned push for amendments into R.A. No. 7610.
Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas supported the call for a reassessment of the provision where parents may be jailed, echoing the concerns of Save the Children.
“Sinusuportahan ng Gabriela party-list ang mga panukalang batas para palakasin ang Republic Act No. 7610 o ang Special Protection of Children against Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act. However, we share the same view, reservation, with our child rights organizations regarding the penalties to be imposed to parents and legal guardians,” Brosas said.
(Gabriela party-list supports proposals to strengthen Republic Act No. 7610 or the Special Protection of Children against Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act.)
“‘Yon po ‘yong ikukulong ang mga parents, sabi nga ng resource person natin kanina, mas malamang na matindi ‘yong impact sa bata ng ganitong ‘pag posisyon,” she added.
(Having parents jailed, as our resource persons said earlier, may cause a bigger impact on children in this position.)
Committee chair and BHW Rep. Angelica Natasha Co meanwhile said that she also supports discussing the bills again to ensure a smooth consolidation of the said proposed measures. As a result, none of the bills were approved on Monday, as they would have to be consolidated first.
But OFW Rep. Marissa Magsino stressed that the parental jail term amendments proposed by House Bill No. 226 focuses on sexual abuse of children.
“I would like to state that, Madam Chair, I personally agree to the proposal to increase penalties against sexual predators and child abuses, because we need to protect our children who are helpless against the predators preying upon them. Let us not forget that our children will be our future generations,” Magsino said.
“And I will like also to state, with due respect to Cong. Arlene Brosas, because there is also the Section 1 of House Bill No. 226, that amends Section 9 of R.A. No. 7610, child abuse law, by increasing the penalty of imprisonment for the qualified offense of using a child below 12 years old in obscene exhibitions and pornographic materials from 10 years and 1 day to 12 years or prison mayor in its maximum period,” she added.
Over the years, there have been many proposals seeking jail terms and other penalties for parents who would be remiss in their responsibility to monitor and nurture their children, who might have been exposed to abuses.
Last July 2020, former Manila mayor Isko Moreno proposed jailing irresponsible parents, or those who allow children to roam along streets despite the strict health protocols against COVID-19.