Social Watch pushes for open bicam to guarantee PhP6-billion child protection funds in 2022 budget  

BusinessWorld Photo

The Social Watch Philippines (SWP) reiterates its demand to give a final stamp on increasing child protection allocation in the 2022 national budget as it pushes the legislative branch to open the Bicameral Conference (BICAM) proceedings for transparency and accountability. It is only then that doubts to water down meaningful increases dissipate.

As SWP said, “while we welcome child protection commitments from both chambers during the committee and plenary deliberations of the 2022 National Budget, this is only winning half of the battle. The legislative branch can genuinely fulfill them by seeing the PhP6 billion worth funds in the General Appropriations Act (GAA).”

On Monday, the BICAM proceedings started for the 2022 General Appropriations Bill (GAB). Traditionally, the BICAM sessions are held behind closed doors, which is why it earned a ‘not so transparent’ reputation. As such, this is where ‘horse trading’ usually occurs between both chambers, thus, leaving behind the meaningful wins gained during the committee and plenary deliberations of both the House of Representatives (HoR) and the Senate.

Data shows that even before the pandemic, abuses happening to children puts them at a greater risk of having a bleak future if the government does not do its job to protect them. Citing the 2016 survey by the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) and UNICEF in which three out of five Filipino children being physically and psychologically abused and bullied, and almost one in five being sexually violated.

Come 2020 pandemic, a recent study commissioned by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) showed that there had been a 20 percent increase in domestic violence globally and, at the same time, the study approximates that intimate partner violence will increase by 16 percent in the Philippines. It can be deduced that if this is the case for intimate partners, those children living inside these relationships will most likely become victims of abuse themselves.

From January to June 2020, Women and Child Protection Unit (WCPU) responded to 3,368 cases of child abuse and 879 cases of abuse against women. By end of 2020, a total of 6,926 children were served by the WCPUs, 52% of which constituted child sexual abuse cases.

“It is unhealthy for children to grow up exposed to violence as these can lead to mental, psychological, emotional and physical wounding which they can carry with them for the rest of their lives. This is the reason why, amid the increasing violence against children at home or even at school, SWP pushes for more aggressive funding for child protection. Also in this proposal, we have allocated alternative funding to address the problems of child labor in the country as a response to the government’s revised goal in the Philippine Development Plan to eradicate child labor by next year,” SWP explained.

The PhP6.023 billion budget proposed by SWP is divided into three key agencies: Department of Health (DOH), Department of Education (DepEd), and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). For the DOH, the SWP proposes allocating PhP22,254 million for the plantilla staffing positions for Women and Children Protection Units of seven (7) DOH hospitals.

For the DepEd, the proposal is to allocate PhP 22.145 million to the agency’s Child Protection Program in order to fund their planning, strategizing and monitoring of activities related to child protection policy, capability building of teachers and child protection committees, conduct of research and data management, and strengthening child protection reporting and referral mechanism of schools.

Meanwhile, the DOLE needs an additional funding of about PhP171 million for the profiling and monitoring of child laborers and PhP800.64 million for livelihood assistance to parents in order to reduce the incidence of child labor in the country.