CEBU, Philippines - In 2011, the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Region 7 recorded 748 cases of child abuse.
Of this number, 401 were cases of abandonment and neglect, 132 were cases of sexual abuse while 116 were cases of physical abuse, battery and maltreatment, according to data from DSWD-FO 7.
Although these numbers are smaller in total than the 1,047 cases served in 2010, DSWD-FO VII child and youth welfare head Emma Patalinghug clarifies this does not mean that incidents are getting fewer.
In fact, Patalinghug admits that these figures are not an accurate representation of the situation in the region, as they do not include cases handled by non-government agencies and other charitable institutions.
The wide acceptance of physical abuse and maltreatment as a form of discipline has also significantly reduced reports on these cases, she says.
What is certain, Patalinghug says, is that the numbers show the urgency of the need to address the problem.
Republic Act 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act defines child abuse as maltreatment of a child, habitual or not.
These acts include psychological and physical abuse, neglect, cruelty, sexual abuse and emotional maltreatment; any act by deeds or words which debases, degrades or demeans the intrinsic worth and dignity of a child as a human being; unreasonable deprivation of his basic needs for survival such as food and shelter; or failure to immediately give medical treatment to an injured child resulting in serious impairment of his growth and development or in his permanent incapacity or death.
Child abuse and Politics
Politics, too, is considered a major factor in the battle against child abuse.
When politics played a significant role in the dumping of the positive and non-violent discipline ordinance authored by opposition councilors in Cebu City, child welfare advocates felt their efforts were invalidated.
Last June 27, the Cebu City Council passed the "Cebu City Ordinance Promoting Positive and Non-Violent Discipline of Children" with 14 councilors voting for the legislation and two against it. The ordinance was authored by Councilor Lea Japson who sits as chair of the committee on family and women, as well as Councilors Alvin Dizon, John Philip Po II and Margarita Osmeña, herself a child's rights advocate and former head of the Cebu City Task Force on Street Children and a member of Operation Second Chance.
In his State of the City Address (SOCA) last July 2, however, Mayor Michael Rama described the ordinance as anti-poor as it carries with it a fine of P5,000 or the penalty of six months imprisonment. When interviewed by members of the press after his SOCA, however, Rama admitted that he has not read the ordinance just yet.
In his veto message, he made mention that the measure is not "just, fair, non-oppressive, and non-confiscatory."
Japson denied this, saying that the penalty is not for first time offenders. She explained that the provisions in the ordinance gives the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC) the option to refer the offender to the city's Social Welfare Service Office for assessment and intervention, which may come in the form of counseling for parents who violate the ordinance and their children, as well as seminars on children's rights and positive and non-violent discipline of children.
Child welfare advocates who believe that corporal punishment is a form of child abuse think that more than just punishing guardians, parents, and other adults who would physically, verbally, and psychologically inflict harm on the child as a form of discipline, the measure is a step forward towards positive discipline, which is more effective based on research and other scientific studies on behavioral science.
Patalinghug relates their struggle in making people and politicians understand the ordinance. She laments that the lack of implementation of national laws concerning child welfare is also rooted on the lack of localized measures that best address the particular circumstances of the locality.
"Like in Cebu, we have here plenty of cases of verbal abuse and flagging," she says.
The positive and non-violent discipline ordinance was supposed to help in the fight against domestic child abuse in the context of Cebu City wherein the most common manifestation is physical discipline.
Another area that is becoming a concern for children's rights advocates is the alarming increase in child internet pornography.
What makes it difficult to report and respond to these cases, Patalinghug says, is that the act is usually committed in the homes of the victims and the perpetrator.
"The moral values of people are deteriorating," she says, pointing to the fact that parents themselves are the one pushing their children to engage in such lurid acts.
"They think that because their child is just doing it in front of a camera and not with an actual person, it's ok," she says in Cebuano.
Patalinghug cites the 2011 cases in Cordova town wherein parents encouraged their five minor children to perform lewd acts in front of the camera. She says that because the parents are there, the children, trusting of their parents, believed that there was nothing wrong with what they were doing. Worse, they remained oblivious to the fact that they were already being exploited.
"They thought that they were just playing," Patalinghug says.
Patalinghug believes that until society is educated on the rights of children and what it can do to help protect it, there will always be hurdles to face.
For this, she says awareness and education campaigns are at the top of their to-do list in the implementation of national laws concerning children's welfare, and in pushing for the localization of these laws. Still, more work has to be done, considering the disproportionate number of staffs that their office has to their area of coverage.
With this, Patalinghug suggests that the Department of Education must promote values education for children aggressively.
Patalinghug also believes that in order to address cases of child abuse, local governments must learn to aggressively push for local measures that could help address the issues. These measures, she says, must be implemented fully at the grassroots level like in the barangays.
"When it comes to laws, we have plenty of them, but one of our weaknesses is full implementation," she says.
Parents, too, have a big role to play and must be educated themselves.
"There should be continuous advocacy for parents," she added. "They need to know their duties and responsibilities."
She says that in 2010, aggressive information campaign on child abuse resulted in an increase in the number of cases reported.
That year, DSWD-FO VII recorded 305 cases of various child sex abuse compared to the previous year's 258 or this year's 155. What would be significant this year is that DSWD recorded 18 cases of cyber pornography, an increase of eight cases from last year's 10 cases.
"We had a program at SM City Cebu on child sexual abuse and we included all the students from the different schools," she says.
Local social workers should also undergo continuous capability building seminars including case management. This would, however, entail cost and as such, Patalinghug says efforts should be multi-sectoral, coming from the community itself and with the support of both the private and public sectors.
Multi-sectoral efforts would also make more and more people aware of the problem and, hopefully, generate more helping hands. (Edited by Joeberth M. Ocao/The FREEMAN).
There was a study on women who were denied late term abortions. They compared this group with a group of women who were almost late term and did get an abortion. The late term women and children were very likely to fall into poverty and had a lot of problems with handling the children.
Wanted Children are not likely to be abused and unwanted children are often victims of child abuse. The problems of abused children can be spotted when the children show physical injuries but the psychological injuries are a bit harder to spot.
It is a tough job being a social worker because you fear for the safety of a child but don't want the parent and child to be separated and keep hoping that child abuse was only temporary.
When my son was young, one of his friends ran away from home and came to our house. I told him he could stay the night, but he had to call his mom to let her know where he was. His mom came over, along with her boyfriend. When this boy refused to go home with them, the boyfriend grabbed him by the ankle and tried to pull him out the door. I fought to have him let go of the child. I refused to let the boy leave with them. The mom agreed to let him stay with me for the night, but he had to go home the next day. During the evening, the boy told me that the boyfriend had hit him in the past. The next day, I called the school to let them know I was concerned. They had to report it to child & family services. When they called me for a statement, all they asked if if I saw the boyfriend hit the child. That didn't happen. I kept saying that he grabbed him by the ankle and pulled him off my couch. They didn't care. All they wanted to know was did I see the child get hit. In the end, nothing was done to the boyfriend. The boy was punished by his mother and wasn't allowed to come to my house anymore. I felt so guilty for reporting it, because of the consequences the boy had to face at home. Months later the boy was again at our home, and I asked for his forgiveness for putting him into that situation at home. He did thank me for intervening, for standing up for him, for fighting for him, but what good did it do? I think my son told me the friend is now a member of a gang. Sometimes I think child services is so over burdened that they can't handle the marginal cases, and too many children slip through the cracks and find themselves in worse situations. It's so very sad.
@songoftheheart - government is always overburdened with work... we can't blame them really... sadly in my country, the reason for being overburdened is because many of those who work in government are political accommodations, meaning, they are really not qualified for anything... so all they do is sit all day and wait for their pay... :(
i applaud you for standing up for the child... im sure he will remember you... you gained an ally and a friend with that child :D