Child rights violations under Aquino government increasing

Our children’s future is also rendered uncertain as their parents become victims of massive layoffs and unemployment brought about by unfair competition between local businesses and foreign corporations under the trade liberalization policy. Lack of jobs results in forced child labor in the countryside and even in the urban areas. According to the data from the Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics, in 2010 there are 1.9 million child workers. The National Statistics Office 2011 survey ,on the other hand, shows that there are some 5.5 million child workers between ages of five and 17, of whom 3 million work in hazardous environments.

In Negros, known as the “Sugarbowl of the Philippines,” there are many child laborers. Jhon Milton Lozande said that more than 1.5 million families in Negros are farm workers. “Farming involves the whole family. Children of peasants also become farm workers in the sugar plantations because what they earn is still not enough for the family,” Lozande said in the conference adding that farm workers are only earning P700 ($17) to P1000 ($24) per week.

He said dire poverty forces children to quit school and work to help their parents to make both ends meet. “In fact, many farm workers started working in the sugar plantation since they were still minors and up to know they are still there,” Lozande added.

When children of poor families do not work, they are found on the streets trying to survive through committing crimes against property or stealing. San Miguel said the government’s failure to address the deplorable situation of children – extreme poverty, hunger and lack of educational opportunities – makes them more vulnerable to involvement in crime and violence.

Instead of addressing poverty, the government’s response to the increasing number of delinquent children is by lowering the age of discernment. Lawmakers are proposing to amend Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 to lower the age of criminal liability. “Numerous cases involving minors like Batang Hamog, Akyat Bahay and other illegal activities have been hyped by the media but lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12 years old will not solve the problem,” San Miguel said.

Children can speak for themselves too

Gat Jose Rizal once said, “The youth is the hope of the nation,” therefore, children should be given a voice in policies that would affect their future. “We are the hope of the nation, thus, it is only right that we are fighting for a nation where justice exists, and our rights are respected and protected; for a nation that will serve for our interest,” said Kaira Caboron, 14, a member of the Salinlahi Children’s Collective.

Kaira said they too have the right to speak about how they feel and they should be heard. “We are proud that at such an early age, we are aware of our rights and we can and will fight for it.”

The Salinlahi Children’s Collective is a cultural group composed of children from different communities. Salinlahi also helped in the formation of other children’s collectives in Quezon City. These collectives hone the talents of children with the help of their facilitators from Salinlahi. They discuss the situation of children and the country for them to understand their parents’ situation. “Through these discussions, children understand why they suffer from poverty; or why there are children in the streets; why there are children who are not in school, and are working,” said Nemia Villaflor of Samakana-Bagong Silangan chapter. Some members of CC are children of mothers who are members of Samakana.

Villaflor said it is important to organize children and let them know that they can contribute to changing the nation. “In CC, children are taught to be patriotic, pro-people, and scientific. This will help them appreciate the country’s resources and how they can use it for their own needs. They are also taught about their rights because if they know their rights, they will fight for it through collective action,” Villaflor said. She added that when children speak, people listen.

“We will inherit this nation, it is only right that we fight for it. If before adults talk about our rights and our protection, now we contribute to the discussion. We hope that many more nationalist adults will help us protect and fight for our rights,” Kaira said.

“As child rights advocates, we should go beyond providing services. We too, can oppose and speak out against policies that further violate children’s rights. If we are not going to do our part to protect children’s rights, then I think we should ask ourselves if we are really child rights advocates,” San Miguel said. (

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