A. Birth Registration
Citizenship derives from birth to a citizen parent and, in certain circumstances, from birth within the country’s territory to alien parents. The government promoted birth registration, and authorities immediately registered births in health facilities. Births outside of facilities were less likely to be registered promptly, if at all. NGOs previously estimated that more than 2.5 million children were unregistered, primarily among Muslim and indigenous groups. The Department of Social Welfare continued working closely with local governments to improve registration; the Philippines Statistics Authority operated mobile birth registration units to reach rural areas.
Kindergarten, elementary, and secondary education is free and compulsory through age 18, but the quality of education was often poor, and access difficult, especially in rural areas where substandard infrastructure makes traveling to school challenging.
Children continue to become victims of the drug war currently being waged by the Duterte Administration. Collateral damage continues to mount as the Duterte administration wages its bloody drug war. Last July 13, 2018, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has expressed alarm over recent killings in Cebu City including the death of a four-year-old boy during an anti-drug operation.
The CHR office in Central Visayas is investigating the death of Skyler Abatayo who was hit by a stray bullet in a drug raid in Sitio Bato, Barangay Ermita. A police report said police officers swooped down on a suspected drug den and caught two men repacking shabu and two others in a drug session.
In Pangasinan, there was fatal shooting of 17 year old Joshua Laxamana, who was a known E-games player. According to reports, Laxamana was an alleged Akyat Bahay gang member who ignored a police checkpoint and fired shots at manning police officers in Barangay Poblacion, Balungao before who was killed on Tarlac–Pangasinan–La Union Expressway (TPLEx) access road on August 17. Human rights advocates, however, belied the police account claiming that it had “woven an elaborate scenario of Laxamana as motorcycle-riding, checkpoint-evading, firearm-wielding, shabu-carrying suspect —a ‘nanlaban’ case.
The CHR Region 3 Field Office responded to claims that Department of Education had adopted a policy that will block thousands of students from graduating due to lack of birth certificates issued by the Philippine Statistics Authority. This was after an article by Ding Cervantes came out in the Punto Central that DepEd officials in its Division Office in Pampanga gave this information after parents have been warned of this requirement.
The CHR Regional Field Office issued a number of recommendations namely: 1) to adopt congenial ways to encourage parents and guardians to submit documentary requirements on time, 2) to intensify its information and dissemination to remind stakeholders of the submission deadlines of the needed documentary requirements, 3) Review DepEd processes as to why PSA birth certificates remain unsubmitted days before graduation, 4) Review other DepEd processes that may be discriminatory in nature.
The CHR Region 8 Field Office also made observations regarding military deployments in Barangay Rebong, Katungod, Northern Samar. The said deployments involved encampment of the members of the 20th Infantry Battalion at Las Navas High School and Las Navas Elementary School. Upon investigation, CHR Region 8 found that soldiers encamped for two months within the vicinity of the schools. While there were no reported abuses during the military presence, It was later confirmed by the Punong Barangay (village chief) of Brgy. Jole-Jole that a military detachment was set-up closely situated beside Las Navas Elementary School.
The CHR Region 8 Field Office’s advisory reiterated to the Philippine Army that under an existing Department Order No. 44 s. 2005 by the Department of Education, schools are hereby designated as zones of peace that should be free from the presence of combatants regardless of what side they are from.
C. Child Abuse
Child abuse remained a problem. From January to June, Department of Welfare offices served 2,396 victims of child abuse, 69 percent of whom were girls. Several cities ran crisis centers for abused women and children.
D. Sexual Exploitation of Children
The law prohibits the commercial exploitation of children and child pornography and defines purchasing commercial sex acts from a child as a trafficking offense. Authorities endeavored to enforce the law. The minimum age for consensual sex is 12. The statutory rape law criminalizes sex with minors under 12 and sex with a child under 18 involving force, threat, or intimidation. The maximum penalty for child rape is 40 years in prison plus a lifetime ban from political office. The production, possession, and distribution of child pornography are illegal, and penalties range from one month to life in prison, plus fines from 50,000 to five million pesos ($1,000 to $100,000), depending on the gravity of the offense.
Despite these penalties, law enforcement agencies and NGOs reported that criminals and family members continued to use minors unlawfully in the production of pornography and in cybersex activities. The country is the top global internet source of online child pornography.
Child prostitution continued to be a serious problem, and the country remained a destination for child sex tourism by domestic and foreign clients. The government continued to prosecute accused pedophiles and deport those who were foreigners.
Additionally, the live internet broadcast of young Filipino girls, boys, and sibling groups performing sex acts for paying foreigners continued. The National Bureau of Investigation and the PNP worked closely with the Labor Department to target and close facilities suspected of prostituting minors.
E. Displaced Children
The most recent UNICEF data, from 2012, estimated there were approximately 250,000 street children. From January to June, the Department of Social Welfare provided residential and community-based services to 1,018 street children nationwide, of whom 528 were served in residential facilities and 490 were served under the Comprehensive Program for Street Children, Street Families, and Indigenous Peoples. This program included activity centers, education and livelihood aid, and community service programs.
Under the juvenile justice law, children 15 years old and younger who commit a crime are exempt from criminal liability. Police stations had youth relations officers to ensure that authorities treated minor suspects appropriately, but in some cases they ignored procedural safeguards and facilities were not child friendly.
The law mandates that the Department of Social Welfare provide shelter, treatment, and rehabilitation services to these children. As of June, the department assisted 1,862 children in conflict with the law (that is, alleged as, accused of, or judged as having committed an offense) in 16 rehabilitation centers nationwide. Additionally, several local governments established and managed youth centers that provided protection, care, training, and rehabilitation for these children and other at-risk youth.
The PNP’s Women and Children’s Protection Center reported in late 2016 that approximately 38,000 minors surrendered to authorities in response to the antidrug campaign. As the legal status of those voluntarily surrendering remained ambiguous, it was not clear that these minors were being treated as required by law.
A controversial proposal on drug testing for minors to be conducted by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) was shelved after it did not get the support of the Department of Education (DepEd). Earlier the PDEA proposed to conduct mandatory drug testing for pupils from grade 4 and up. Secretary Leonor Briones however raised the issue that such proposal is against the law (RA9165) which only covers random drug test for secondary and college students.
A CHR technical report on the implementation of the Dengvaxia vaccine found that children’s rights were neglected. There were apparent failures in the administration of informed consent, vaccination, performance of roles of implementers, budget preparation and allocation, prioritization for funding, risk communication and development.
The said technical report also concluded that the State violated its obligation to respect when it implemented a program that contravenes the standards set out in Article 12 of the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESR) and resulted to bodily harm and unnecessary death of children vaccinated. It violated its obligation to protect when it failed to take all necessary measures to safeguard children from the infringements of the right to health by Sanofi. The CHR also stated that the Philippine government violated its duty to fulfill when it hastily implemented an immunization program that has no long-term safety data and questionable effectiveness.