Child protection and many inconsistencies of our laws

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    IT IS with a sense of relief somehow that my daughter’s school called for a parents-teachers’ forum to discuss among other issues and concerns is child protection and children’s rights.

    It’s not only because I am a little more insecure nowadays that my daughter has now reached the age of puberty and having gone through that phase, I know that ‘danger’ lurks every which way for children at this age.

    If I have my way, I would always be by her side, but as parent who is supposed to be an ideal practitioner who respects children’s rights and promoter of their welfare, I have refrained from going to an extent, for fear that I might stifle her balanced growth and development as an individual.

    And then I realized that our children in this particular school are very lucky if compared to those among the Indigenous Peoples’ communities elsewhere in Mindanao. Many if not most of these children do not enjoy the protection provided by our constitution like they should, which particularly states as follows:

    Article IX Children of Indigenous Cultural Communities Sec. 17. Survival, Protection and Development — In addition to the rights guaranteed to children under this Act and other existing laws, children of indigenous cultural communities shall be entitled to protection, survival and development consistent with the customs and traditions of their respective communities.

    Sec. 18. System of and Access to Education — The Department of Education, Culture and Sports shall develop and institute an alternative system of education for children of indigenous cultural communities which culture-specific and relevant to the needs of and the existing situation in their communities. The Department of Education, Culture and Sports shall also accredit and support non- formal but functional indigenous educational programs conducted by non-government organizations in said communities.

    But then, the very recent conference held in the city by members of a support group called Save our Schools (SOS) that is composed of several private alternative entities that are helping the IP children achieve education shown that these laws have been largely violated. What is disturbing that government instrumentalities are even the ones implementing these violations.

    SOS has claimed that the Department of Education Memorandum 221, series of 2013, December 13, 2013 which is the so-called Guidelines on the Protection of Children During Armed Conflict; and the Letter Directive 25, July 15, 2013 by AFP Chief of Staff General Emmanuel Bautista which legitimize the conduct of AFP activities inside or within the premises of schools and other public facility have violated the IP children’s rights.

    To quote SOS’ claims, they said “These have been instruments of oppression that gives blanket authority to the military to violate the constitutional rights enshrined in our Constitution. All sorts of grave coercion are being done against the IP children, their teachers and the community leaders in the guise of development and peace.”

    “Moreover, the Department of Education have dealt a big blow to the teachers of the alternative schools by insulting their capacity, heaping indignities on their person with direct assault and discrimination. Is this the kind of treatment they deserve for responding to government neglect in far-flung communities?”

    Further, the statement said that “Recognizing that Education is a basic human right and witnessing the blatant violation of this rights have pushed organizations and religious institutions directly working with the IP schools and communities under attack to establish not only literacy and numeracy schools in Mindanao but they have also started building primary and secondary schools in an effort to reach the farthest communities that are wanting of these basic services.”

    It is therefore very disturbing that such acts are seemingly glossed over by government authorities, by our national leaders who should be leading in this protection policies.

    Source: Sun Star Davao