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AS CHILD advocates dream of having a child-friendly environment in Puerto Princesa City, youngsters now have an easier way to report abuse.

BayaniJuan’s Bantay Bata 163 of the ABS-CBN Foundation, Inc. (AFI) and Patrol 117 of the City Government’s Kilos Agad Action Center (KAAC) launched child help lines during the Multi-Sectoral Convention on Child Abuse at the Puerto Princesa City Coliseum on June 26.

Mayor Edward Hagedorn did the ceremonial call using the help lines at the start of this convention, which aimed to elicit recommendations on how to improve and enhance the child protection system in the city.

Regina Paz Lopez, AFI’s managing director and project manager for Palawan, former board member Dr. Gerry Ortega introduced the BayaniJuan project to the participants, mostly sector’s representatives including non-government organizations, church, government organizations and the local government units.

Participants expressed their desire for a child-friendly city but pointed to the lack of financial resources and irresponsible parenting as the major constraints in addressing child abuse problems in the city.

However, they believe that with this newly-launched scheme for addressing child abuse problems in the city will further the cause of child safety.

Several efforts have already been made to address this emerging problem in Puerto Princesa. Aside from the government’s social welfare development, various Christian churches, NGOs, as well as the court are working hard to solve child abuse problems and have started finding ways to create a friendlier atmosphere for children, the conference revealed.

Atty. Fritsie Baban-Subang of the Puerto Princesa’s Regional Trial Family Court said though implementation of child-friendly projects in the court is constrained by the budget, they have already implemented child protection initiatives for their young clients.

One of these measures provides that the judge take off his/her robe whenever talking with a child abuse survivor. Questions are also being interpreted in a manner that the child would understand during court proceedings, she said. But this lawyer wished to have the facilities needed to fully materialize a child-friendly courtroom.

Children as Gifts

Children are presents from God, says Tina Monson-Palma, a well-known broadcast journalist who serves as the program director of Bantay Bata 163.

It is also a common observation that the children are the future of the world.

But Bantay Bata 163’s legal counsel, Atty. Eric Mallonga who discussed the legal framework of child protection said, “Children are not only our future but also our present.”

Atty. Mallonga explained this by saying, “Teachers can never be called teachers without the children” and “Parents cannot be called parents without the children.”

He added, “If we have no children, we have no society to govern.”

Atty. Mallonga also stressed how the judicial process is, in his terms, ‘medieval’ in its coercion of children being brought to court.

He urged the city councilors who were present at the convention to push for child-friendly ordinances in dealing with minors so that they will not be tormented by the proceedings of the law. He also told participants there is no need to present the child survivor of abuse in court to avoid “multiple victimization.”

Atty. Mallonga likewise reiterated the need to “divert” from the criminal justice system to child reformation programs. He added the current laws created with “medieval perspective applying Spanish-oriented family law should not be applied to children.”

Ptra. Lilia Jimenez, administrator of the Jesus Touch Fellowship, a Christian organization that has various programs for poor and neglected children, asked about the next concrete move after the convention in order to attain a child-friendly Puerto Princesa.

Jimenez said with the current state of Puerto Princesa, pointing particularly to the lack of a “child-friendly hospital” in the city, we really need to improve the environment for children.

Palma acknowledged the imperfections in the society and said there is no perfect way of addressing the problems, but she asked cooperation from all present to succeed in this endeavor.

Moreover, City Social Development Officer Lolita Yulo urged participants to become child advocates and continuously report child abuses.

BayaniJuan in Puerto

Bantay Bata 163 (BB163) is among the four monumental community outreach programs of the AFI in the Philippines together with Bantay Kalikasan, E-Media, and Bayan Foundation under the BayaniJuan project.

BB 163, a child welfare program “not only rescues and rehabilitates sick and abused children, but also provides shelter, therapy and quality home care for rescued children until they can be reunited with their families or referred to proper child-caring agencies,” the foundation’s website states.

BB163 gives emphasis on the family through training and advocacy on child abuse prevention, rehabilitation of families in crisis, educational scholarships, livelihood, community outreach and medical and dental missions, it states.

It also notes that though the four programs are independent bodies, collectively they are much more effective in pursuing the goal of a better life for every Filipino man, woman, and child. This project’s mission is to lead government, NGOs, and the private sector to work together in the spirit of Bayanihan to revitalize and strengthen the Philippines, one community at a time.

BayaniJuan aims to “awaken the giving heart in every Filipino, and to encourage each one, to extend a helping hand so that every man, woman and child in the Philippines has a chance to make all of his or her dreams come true.”

By ELISEO H. VALENDEZ & FROILAN R. HIZON, Bandillo ng Palawan

 

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