The Committee on the Rights of the Child this afternoon reviewed the initial report of the Philippines on how that country implements the provisions of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
Introducing the report, Corazon Juliano Soliman, Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development and Chairperson of the Council for the Welfare of Children of the Philippines, said that the Government had increased the resources available for the social protection of the poor in order to prevent the abuse and exploitation of children. In 2012, more than 3 million households with 7.4 million children benefitted from conditional cash transfers. The Inter-Agency Council against Trafficking, created in 2010, rescued 414 trafficked minors in 2011 alone, while a comprehensive programme was in place to provide psychosocial, social and educational services to child victims of pornography, prostitution and trafficking.
Committee Experts asked about the study on the causes, nature and extent of sexual exploitation and child pornography in the country and the remedial action undertaken by the Government, and about assistance and reintegration services available to children who were abused, exploited or discriminated against. The Experts inquired about root causes of the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, such as poverty, lack of birth registration and discrimination against girls, and the measures undertaken to address them.
In concluding remarks, Agnes Aidoo, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for the Report of the Philippines, said that many initiatives to raise awareness and prohibit and prosecute offences against children were underway, and noted that confounding the sale of children with trafficking in children remained an issue of concern.
Also in concluding observations, Ms. Soliman of the Philippines said that the delegation had listened carefully to the views of the Committee and would study carefully its concluding observations, which would become a springboard to further advance the cause of children’s rights.
Yanghee Lee, the Committee Vice-Chairperson, in closing remarks said that multi-sectorial engagement and cooperation with civil society were the strength of the Philippines and commended the country for the timely submission of its reports.
The delegation of the Philippines consisted of representatives of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Justice, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Education, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Tourism, Council for the Welfare of Children, the Philippine National Police, and the Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The next public meeting of the Committee will be on Wednesday, 23 January at 10 a.m., when it will examine the initial report of Slovakia under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (CRC/C/OPSC/SVK/1), and its initial report under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict (CRC/C/OPAC/SVK/1).
The initial report of the Philippines under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography can be read here: (CRC/C/OPSC/PHL/1).
Statement by the Delegation
CORAZON JULIANO SOLIMAN, Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development and Chairperson of the Council for the Welfare of Children of the Philippines, condemned in the strongest terms the sale of children and incidences of child prostitution and child pornography happening around the world and reiterated the commitment of the Philippines to combating those acts, rehabilitating the victims and sanctioning the perpetrators. The Government had instituted several mechanisms that positively impacted on the welfare of children, such as the creation of the Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cluster composed of several key agencies to strengthen coordination among them for purposes of improving the overall quality of life of the Filipinos. The Philippines was determined to prevent the abuse and exploitation of children and had increased the resources available for the social protection of the poor through its Conditional Cash Transfer Programme. More than 3 million households with 7.4 million children had benefitted from this programme as of December 2012. The Comprehensive Programme for Street Children, Street Families and Indigenous Peoples, especially the Sama-Badjaus, provided services and interventions to respond to their needs and provide the opportunities to live productively and in a safe environment. The Government aggressively implemented the Child Wise Tourist Programme which provided training to police officers, tour guides, taxi drivers, hotel personnel and local tourist officers in premier tourist destinations.
The Philippines continually enhanced its legal protection of children through its strict enforcement of laws, and it had created an Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking to implement the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act. The work of this agency had resulted in the rescue of 414 trafficked minors in 2011 alone. The Agency also maintained a database on trafficked persons and to date, 30 persons had been convicted of the trafficking of children. The National Justice Information System had been implemented since 2008 in order to interconnect all information systems of the justice sector agencies. The Committee for the Special Protection of Children had been reorganized to ensure the timely investigation and prosecution of cases, and assistance and protection to child victims throughout the legal and judicial procedures. The Philippines was committed to the recovery and reintegration into society of all child victims of pornography, prostitution and trafficking; it had in place a comprehensive programme to provide psychosocial, social and educational services for victims; to date, this programme had assisted 285 victims of trafficking. There were 42 residential facilities and temporary shelters around the country for victims of abuse, exploitation and trafficking, which had served 326 clients between 2009 and 2012. The Philippines had enacted laws to criminalize acts that the Optional Protocol sought to prevent; victims could file a criminal case against perpetrators who, if found guilty, were ordered by courts to pay compensation to the victims.
Questions by Experts
SANPHASIT KOOMPRAPHANT, Committee Expert and the Rapporteur for the Report of the Philippines, asked whether a study on the causes, nature and extent of sexual exploitation and child pornography had been conducted and what were the findings of that study and what remedial action had been undertaken. What were the plans concerning the adoption of the Second National Action Plan for Children 2012-2016 and what resources would be allocated to implement it? What programmes of assistance, recovery and reintegration were available for the abused, exploited and discriminated children at the municipal and barangay levels and under which framework? The Country Rapporteur also asked the delegation to provide further explanations concerning the development of the model Child Protection Unit of the Philippines General Hospital and duplicating it in other hospitals in the country, the data collection mechanism for victims of the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, prohibition of child pornography, and plans for the ratification of the 1980 Hague Convention on International Adoption.
AGNES AIDOO, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for the Report of the Philippines, asked about the coordination of activities under the Optional Protocol and expressed concern that the Council for the Welfare of Children was attached to the Department for Social Welfare and had, in the recent past moved its institutional anchorage, and wondered about its capacity and resources to undertake coordination and monitoring of activities under the Optional Protocol. What steps were undertaken to ensure the dissemination and increase of knowledge about the provisions of the Optional Protocol among the public and especially children and their parents? How were the root causes of the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, such as poverty, lack of birth registration, discrimination against girls, street children and others, being addressed?
The delegation was asked to elaborate on the budgetary issues for the activities on children’s rights and the methods to guarantee transparency in the management of those resources at the municipal levels and prevent their misuse; extradition of foreigners committing crimes under the Optional Protocol and the sanctioning of Filipino citizens committing those crimes abroad; measures to increase birth registration rates; protective services available to children; and the status of the girl child in the society which made them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
Response by Delegation
In terms of the Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum, the delegation said the Philippines had always ranked high and had ranked eighth in the latest report out of 138 countries, which would not be possible if discrimination against the girl child was prevalent. Girls were valued in the Philippines. The ratification of the 1980 Hague Convention on international adoption was still under study but even if was not yet signed, there were sufficient safeguards in the domestic legislation, such as the laws prohibiting children to travel without the consent of both parents.
The Council for the Welfare of Children was very well set up for the coordination role and included representatives of several ministries and children themselves. At the regional levels, there were regional Committees on Child Welfare under the Regional Development Council and the coordination was well maintained and sustained. The Council had specific campaigns to raise the awareness of the population, which took place every second week of February on a specific topic connected to the Optional Protocol and trafficking in children.
Committee Experts asked about outreach to more vulnerable children and their parents, such as children out of school, street or poor children and families.
In response, the delegation said that one of the sustainable interventions was the conditional cash transfer serving more than 3 million of households until 2012, almost 7.5 million poor children. Children were provided with a cash grant for education, and a health grant was disbursed to mothers and babies and young children. Children in need of special protection, such as street children, indigenous children and children vulnerable to labour exploitation, were also included in the modified cash transfer programmes which provided not only cash grants, but also house rental for six months and immediate livelihood support. Additional support was provided to children affected by natural disasters or armed conflict. Conditions for participation in the programme were to keep the children in school, and not only in primary school but also in alternative learning systems which applied to street and indigenous children who might not have had any previous schooling, regular health visits of mothers and children to health centres, and the attendance of monthly family development sessions which educated parents on responsible parenting, anti-trafficking and provisions of the Optional Protocol. The evaluation of the conditional cash transfer had been conducted by the World Bank and it indicated that the families in the conditional cash transfer areas spent more on education, nutrition, health and other areas which benefitted children and pregnant mothers.
More than 30 per cent of the Government’s budget was for social services and for public education which was provided free; children were the majority beneficiaries of those services. The major investment to prevent trafficking, sale, prostitution and pornography was the conditional cash transfer which last year alone received a budget of US dollars 1.1 billion; this investment aimed at keeping children in school and keeping them healthy was important to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty and exclusion.
Local Government Units were mandated to implement national laws and received seals of approval by the Department of Interior for good housekeeping and management of resources. In terms of corruption, the Philippines was able to jump 20 points on the Transparency Index.
The National Justice Information System had been newly created for the purpose of information sharing and coordination. Extradition could be carried out only with countries which had an extradition treaty with the Philippines. All offences, including those against children, were territorial in nature, but there was currently a move to include the extraterritorial character of those crimes in the ongoing revision of the penal code. In the law on prostitution, children were considered victims and were not prosecuted.
The Government had a programme to prevent the commercial sexual exploitation of children in the tourism industry and promote ethical and sustainable practices to protect the rights of the child. The programme was being gradually launched in the 14 major tourist destinations in the country, and this was being done with the participation of children. This was an inter-agency initiative in which several Government departments and local Government took part.
In order to address poverty which was among the principal root causes of the sale and exploitation of children, the Government had put in place a conditional cash transfer programme which enrolled poor families. For this purpose a household targeting system for the identification of the poor had been developed, which identified the poor through a proxy and a set of verifiable indicators, including the state of housing, access to basic services such as water and sanitation, ownership of appliances, employment, etc. This programme reduced the underlying causes of poverty which were social marginalization and exclusion.
Services available to victims of exploitation and abuse were delivered through community based and centre based programmes. Community based programmes provided immediate intervention to children who needed protection and services, while centres provided psychosocial services to help the victim manage the trauma so that they could recover and reintegrate into the society and the family. Children victims of exploitation and abuse were identified through the reports by the police, parents or organizations working with children.
There were no cases of reported cases of organ sales for children; there were cases involving adults aged 25 years and over.
AGNES AIDOO, Committee Expert and the Co-Rapporteur for the Report of the Philippines, said that much had been achieved by the Philippines: many initiatives to raise awareness and prohibit and prosecute offences against children were underway and resources were on the increase. The issue of confounding the sale of children with trafficking in children remained of concern and it was hoped that the number of victims of the sale of children would be on the decrease.
CORAZON JULIANO SOLIMAN, Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development and Chairperson of the Council for the Welfare of Children of the Philippines, thanked the Committee for the dialogue and said that they had listened to the views of the Committee and would study carefully its concluding observations, which would become a springboard to further advance the cause of children’s rights. The Philippines would hold in March 2013 a national multi-stakeholder forum to focus on the continuing challenges to the effective implementation of the Optional Protocol. Action and monitoring plans would be adopted to provide the appropriate response to those challenges and the Committee would be kept abreast of developments in this regard.
YANGHEE LEE, Committee Vice-Chairperson, said that multi-sectorial engagement and cooperation with civil society were the strength of the Philippines and commended the country for the timely submission of its reports.
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