By: Marites Badilla
THE children of Senator Manny Pacquiao are definitely fortunate that their parents are extremely rich, thus, they are studying in good schools, eating foods intended for the rich people, and have experience the lifestyle of the rich famous people having rich and famous parents, particularly Pacquiao who is a very popular boxer and a lawmaker.
But, how about the children of poorest parents?
No doubt, they could hardly eat three times a day—perhaps even twice a day.
They could not even go to a public school due to extreme poverty.
Social Welfare Sec. Judy Taguiwalo indicated that the children of poorest parents need not worry as three government agencies (Department of Social Welfare and Development, Council for the Welfare of Children, and the National Youth Commission) will jointly work and prioritize them as the country starts celebrating national children’s month this November.
As the DSWD, CWC, and NYC do its role and assignment in the month-long celebration, Taguiwalo strongly prodded various sectors to seriously help the children of poorest parents to address issues and concerns they have been confronting in their daily lives.
Taguiwalo stressed that the “government agencies, civil society organizations, individuals, and private institutions concerned with children’s rights should focus their efforts on helping children from the poorest sectors.”
She was referring to “the children who come from urban poor communities, whose parents struggle with the greatest difficulty to find means of livelihood so they can feed their families and keep a roof over their heads.”
The secretary strongly argued that these children of poor parents are the ones who should be given the most attention as the government carries out programs that champion children’s rights (right to be fed, right to be clothed, right to be protected from abuse and exploitation, and right to means to go to school and learn).
According to Taguiwalo, there are around 2.6M families who have experienced involuntary hunger.
This refers to family with three children and 7.8 million children have experienced involuntary hunger.
Another problem is about the findings of the National Nutrition Council (NNC) that 4 million children have been suffering from malnourishment, 3.4 million children have stunted growth, and about 300,000 children described as severely malnourished.
Aside from these concerns, Taguiwalo said the government and other stakeholders “must also give attention to the plight of children who become laborers at a very tender age. Many of them work in plantations, haciendas, and mines [whose] rights as children are violated a thousand-fold, because they are subjected to backbreaking work, and exploited to the maximum because they are hardly paid.”
The secretary cited the 2015 study of the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education Research (EILER) saying 22.5 percent of households have child workers, mining communities have 14 percent child laborers whose age was as young as 5 years-old.
The Philippines employs 5.5 million child laborers, according to the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines.
More than 3 million of them have been working in the worst form of child labor, like prostitution, cyber pornography, etc., TUCP pointed out.
“Given their extreme poverty and their employment, 76 percent of child laborers no longer attend school. Instead they work for 10 hours a day, or 13 to 16 hours a day in the more extreme cases,” Taguiwalo said.
Taguiwalo noted that since the Philippines is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the government is “committed to uphold this Convention.”
Thus, the Duterte administration will pursue all appropriate measures to ensure the protection of the children in accordance with the UN Convention.
“Our efforts to change society must include and give priority to… children, most especially those who come from families who can barely address their own needs,” Taguiwalo asserted.
“We must all work together to address the issues of low wages, landlessness, widespread lack of productive and sustainable means of livelihood, and lack of job security which affect majority of Filipinos so they themselves can become empowered to help their own families and their most vulnerable members – the children,” she added.
This year’s observance of the national children’s month has a theme “Isulong: Kalidad na Edukasyon Para sa Lahat ng Bata [Carry forward: Quality education to all children].”