Tarlac Lady Solon Urges the Senate to Pass Positive and Non-violent Discipline of Children Bill

Save the Children Forum, February 1, 2012

In a country where cultural beliefs reinforce corporal punishment as a form of instilling discipline in children, it seems a long way to go before we can finally put an end to this violence that is most prevalent in a Filipino home. We often hear stories from our parents where they were forced to kneel on munggo beans, rock salt, or dried corn kernels by their parents every time they would commit mistake. Sadly, this kind of discipline has been going on from generation to generation. This is also the reason why there has been a heated debate before the Anti-Corporal Punishment bill or what we now call as the Positive and Nonviolent Discipline of Children Act (HB 4455) before passing Third and Final Reading in the House of Representatives filed by Rep. Susan Yap (Second District of Tarlac).

Since the 14th Congress, a number of bills which would prohibit corporal punishment have been filed but have failed to progress through both houses. To date, our bill is still pending in the Senate. Recognizing the importance of enacting this piece of legislation, advocates of the anti-corporal punishment bill have urged President Aquino to place the measure in the list of legislative priorities to be taken up by the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council.

As a major proponent of this bill, I have often times found myself defending the need for a legislation that would expressly prohibit corporal punishment when the Philippines already has laws on child abuse. True, corporal punishment is prohibited in schools, in the penal system and in residential care institutions but it is still lawful in the home and in other care settings. In fact, we have numerous laws that provide defense if not directly support the use of corporal punishment in childrearing, i.e. Article 220 of the Family Code (1987), which states that the rights and duties of those exercising parental authority over children include “to impose discipline on them as may be required under the circumstances”. Likewise, Article 45 of the Child and Youth Welfare Code (1974) confirms the right of parents “to discipline the child as may be necessary for the formation of his good character”. These are only to name a few.

As it stands now, the penal provisions on child abuse cover the more common forms of corporal punishment prevalent at home, i.e. verbal abuse, hair pulling and spanking. The law on Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act (Republic Act 7610) even states that corporal punishment is not considered a form of cruelty so long as it is done or exercised in a reasonable way, is moderate in degree, and does not constitute physical and psychological injury.
Clearly, the Philippines need a law that would fill in the existing gaps in legislation and expressly prohibit the use of corporal punishment in all settings. The enactment of this law would help us provide clear guidelines that can finally put an end to our cultural belief that it is alright to hurt our children in the guise of discipline. A well-crafted legislation on positive and non-violent discipline will not only help end this violence at home, it would also help Filipino parents and other adults exercise their right to discipline children in a manner that upholds the children’s right to dignity and physical integrity.

The time is now for Filipino parents to accept the fact that corporal punishment is not an accepted mode of disciplining our children. Corporal punishment is a human rights violation and whatever cultural notions we have about it does not make it right and acceptable. The only way the Philippines can effectively eliminate corporal punishment of children is by addressing the gaps through the enactment of a law that would not just penalize corporal punishment of children but actively promote positive and nonviolent discipline of children.

I end this with a fervent hope that our goal of ending corporal punishment in the Philippines will be one step closer to reality this 15th Congress. Indeed, legislation will the pave way to making sure that our country will have no more “Nene” that will be made to endure kneeling down on rock salt by her own mother, and no more “Totoy” will be made to stay inside a closet without food for the night. I, together with the other proponents of the bill in the lower house, strongly urge our Senate counterpart to pass this very important piece of legislation so that the Philippines can be the first in Asia to make Filipino children safer in their own homes.

HB 4455 Positive Discipline in Lieu of Corporal Punishment of Children Act of 2011