For a country like the Philippines which is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN-CRC), it is ironic that child protection is a right that is oftentimes overlooked. The rights to survival, development, participation and protection, alongside the principles of participation and the best interest of the child, are explicitly enshrined in the CRC.
In a multi-sectoral workshop on child protection in Iloilo attended by local media practitioners, students, communication educators, NGOs, and government attached-agencies, issues such as children in the work force, child abuse in schools, media reportage on children’s issues and how children are being portrayed in television were discussed in the context of the welfare of children.
The workshop initiated by the National Council for Children’s Television (NCCT) had the Philippine Press Institute as its institutional partners. Same activity will be conducted in the cities of Baguio, Gen. Santos and the NCR for their local media practitioners.
The rising incidents of child labor in the country caused alarm among children advocates and organizations in the country. As of 2010, the Philippines has an estimated 2.4 million children working under various circumstances according to the Labor Force Survey. The last comprehensive Survey on Children in 2001 funded by International Labour Organization (ILO), estimated 4 million children engaged in economic activities, 2.4 million of whom were exposed to life-threatening work environments and risky situations such as mining and manufacturing. The statistics also show most of the children ages five to seventeen worked as farmers, hunters or fishermen.
The ILO gave an overview on the worst forms of child labor for media to watch out for. “Children in prostitution and as victims of trafficking are just one of the few stories. There are more stories to write about where children’s voices are unheard of,” said Jodelen Mitra, ILO Programme Officer for Monitoring and Evaluation. The Philippine Programme Against Child Labor through the National Child Labor Committee has targeted to reduce the incidents of child labor by seventy-five percent by 2015. This is part of the goal for the total elimination of child labor.
The National Statistics Office fact sheet showed that there are at least two reasons why children worked or are forced to work: to help in own household enterprise and to supplement family income. “In general, household with working children came from the rural areas with an average size of six members,” it said. Children comprised 31% of the total population in the country.
Need for support systems
Seventeen year-old Jesanny I. Yap from the University of San Agustin in Ilioilo City shared her sad experience as a student. “In one way or the other, I have been a victim of bullying. But I think I was able to rise above this adversity because I have a good support group and my school is against all kinds of child abuse,” she said. “The slightest indication of bullying should be reported to school authorities right away.”
The Council for the Welfare of Children defines a child as anyone from zero to seventeen years of age or below eighteen. “Bullying is one of the major problems encountered by schoolchildren,” said Denia Gamboa, CWC head for public affairs and communication office. “Every child is our responsibility. As adults we should give any and all support that they need.” The baseline study conducted by the agency last year listed bullying as the most prevalent incident of child abuse in schools.
Lunduyan, an NGO that works for the protection of children in difficult situations, sees the need to instill positive discipline and values in every facet of social life. “Children by virtue of their being vulnerable cannot protect themselves. Adults can and should,” said executive director Nelia Sevidal. In her presentation, she said that there is a difference between child labor and child work. “The line has to be drawn between the too.” She said that what makes child work acceptable is the presence of four key elements such as survival, protection, participation and development. “Child labor does not have those.”
Promote good habits
A broadcast professor at the West Visayas State University observed that the media is also getting the flak for being too sensational in its reportage on children. “There is a dearth of stories for and about children. I think there’s just too much violence contained in stories in the media that children are exposed to,” said Carmencita Robles.
“We are keeping a close watch on television programs,” said Frank Rivera, executive director of the National Council on Children’s Television. He said that scriptwriters now are more sensitive in tackling issues on children in their programs. “We need to stress good viewing habits. Parents play a vital role in choosing what television programs are best for their kids.”
The agency conducted a survey during the workshop to find out from the sixty participants which current television programs are child-friendly. The overwhelming results were: One Hundred Days to Heaven, Wansapanataym and Munting Heredera. In the past, NCCT also lauded defunct shows such as May Bukas Pa and Panday Kids. “We were instrumental in forcing ABS-CBN to bring back Wansapanataym which I think is being enjoyed by millions of children all over the country. We need shows like that for our children,” said child advocate Daisy Atienza.
A story can change lives
The Daily Guardian publisher Lemuel Fernandez who was one of the respondents of the survey said that children need to be shielded from shows that do not show positive values. “As a media practitioner and a citizen of this country, there has to be a conscious effort on what children need to see or not to see,” he said. Inquirer correspondent Nestor Burgos also admitted that media has its shortcomings too when it comes to reporting on children. “There are guidelines and laws in place to remind us that we need to be sensitive and sensible in our reportage. Children should not be disadvantaged in any way,” he said.
The recent ANC’s human rights independent film series KINSE have at least four short films that tackled children’s issues: John Red’s Absent, Carlitos Siguion-Reyna’s Choices, Richard Somes’s 1942 and Paolo Villaluna’s Intolerance. Choices, for example looked into how decisions of parents and adults in terms of raising a family shape the well-being of children.