Amid the celebration of the National Children’s Month this November, Senator Win Gatchalian urged both public and private schools to boost their programs that raise awareness on children’s rights.
According to the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture, upholding and protecting the rights of children is crucial given the adverse socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including their increased exposure to violence and abuse.
Data from the Philippine National Police Women and Children Protection Desks (PNP-WCPD) showed that as of July 11, there were 2,077 cases of violations against children since the implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in March.
The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Cybercrime also revealed that from March 1 to May 24 this year, there were 279,166 cases of online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC), a surge of 264 percent from the 76,651 cases recorded in the same period last year. The Philippine Chamber of Telecom Operators (PCTO) also reported last September that internet service providers and telecommunications operators blocked 2,521 OSEC websites.
“Ang pandemya ng COVID-19 ay naging isang malaking banta sa kaligtasan ng ating mga kabataan mula sa sakit, pang-aabuso, at karahasan. Kung mas malawak ang pakikilahok at kaalaman ng mga kabataan sa pagtataguyod ng kanilang karapatan, magiging mas epektibo ang ating pagsugpo sa mga pang-aabusong maaari nilang maranasan,” said Gatchalian.
Gatchalian emphasized that the Child Protection Committee (CPC), the school body tasked to ensure child protection and safety, is key in boosting learners’ rights awareness. Under DepEd Order No. 40 s. 2012, one of the functions of the CPC is to initiate information dissemination programs and organize activities on the protection of children from abuse, exploitation, violence, discrimination, and bullying or peer-on-peer abuse, all of which should be identified, referred, and reported to appropriate offices.
The CPC is also tasked to coordinate closely with government agencies such as the PNP-WCPD, the Local Social Welfare and Development Office, and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Aside from referring cases, Gatchalian also suggested that schools work with these government offices and NGOs in implementing rights education programs, reiterating that such partnerships can build the trust of learners and parents for these institutions. He concluded that schools and these institutions should maintain and strengthen their helplines to ensure that the needs of learners in distress are immediately met.