Time to show act of heroism, stand up for the rights of the children, says “Bata Muna”

Manila – Children and advocates in today’s kickoff event for “Bata Muna: Bomoto para sa kapakanan ng mga Bata” nationwide caravan face off with candidates who do not have children agenda in their political platform.

Children organizations supported by Save the Children such as Active Youth Movement (AYM) and Children and Youth Organization (CYO), ChildFund Philippines and Inclusive Education Network Chapter (IEN) will lead the caravan kick-off with children wearing super hero costumes symbolizing various children’s issues today, April 9 Araw ng Kagitingan, at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani monument in Quezon City, a day apt to call on the heroism of aspiring leaders.

“Twin Aiders and Super Nene” are among the superheroes to lead the group, representing the issue of early pregnancy and children’s participation; “Darna” to represent children with disabilities; “Volta” to represent children in emergencies; and “Pintados” to represent children in unsafe surroundings.

“Bata Muna” campaigners lament that the Philippines still lacking policies that promote the rights and welfare of Filipino children. Children’s issues remain at the back seat when it comes to enactment of laws. Key bills that protect children’s rights –bills on corporal punishment, children in situations of armed conflict and statutory rape—remain pending in Congress.

Save the Children Child Rights Governance Advisor Minerva Cabiles said that forty two percent (42%) of more than 92 million Filipinos are children. Children are totally dependent on adults to choose the country’s next leaders. But they are not consulted when policies are passed or when programs are developed; they are rarely informed of what goes in the government; and most often than not, their opinions are not taken seriously.

She added, “Children are the most affected by poor policies, programs, and services. They are the ones who suffer the worst from poverty, hunger, disasters and conflict – problems that our legislators are mandated to solve through the passage of laws that will be the basis for appropriate government programs. It is also the job of our lawmakers to assess the implementation of our current laws, and consult the public, including children, in crafting new laws.”

Sectors working on disability among children raise the lack of specific provisions in the law to ensure the access of children with disabilities to education, health and social welfare services. A research done by Angels of Peace Academy Foundation (AFAPI) in 2012 reveals that public schools in general are not ready to accept children with disabilities due to lack of accessible classroom facilities. Most public school teachers are not trained to handle children with various types of disabilities, and teaching and learning materials are not suited to learning requirements of children with disabilities. The education and social participation of children with disabilities are hindered by the lack of disability services provision.

Richard Arceno, Chairman of AFAPI pointed out that the Millennium Development Goals will not be achieved if more than ninety eight percent (98%) or 2 million children with disabilities in the country are not in school.

“This clearly says that despite over 100 years of Special Education program in the Philippines, the Department of Education still cannot fully handle concerns of children with disabilities,” added Arceno.

Meanwhile, Hubert Par, Area Manager of ChildFund Philippines stressed the importance of involving young people. “If we want real progress then the government must provide opportunities so children, in all stages of their lives, will thrive to become productive citizens.”

“Skilled and involved young people can make informed decisions for their own economic, physical and social well-being and they can act for positive change in their families, communities, countries and the world,” Par said. “The well-being of the country starts with the well-being of the children,” Par explained.

Starting off with the Liberal Party, the “Bata Muna” campaign caravan seeks to reach political leaders and personally meet with them to present their agenda.

“We may not reach and dialogue with all of the candidates, but through this caravan we are conveying our challenge that they speak up for children; bare their legislative agenda and plans of action on how to improve the situation of children,” said Cabiles.

“We hope to see heroes who, on the remaining days of the campaign, will bravely stand for the rights of the children; no matter how controversial the needed policy would be,” ended Cabiles.

Bata Muna is a nationwide campaign aimed at advancing children’s issues in the heart of electoral discussions in the 2013 National Elections. It is jointly organized by Save the Children, Samahan ng Mamamayan – Zone One Tondo Organization (ZOTO), Children Talk to Children (C2C) about the UN CRC Project children’s organizations AKKAP, AYM, CYO and YMETCO, Plan International, Asia ACTs, WomanHealth Philippines, ChildFund Philippines and its supported organizations Yakap sa Kaunlaran ng Bata Inc., Families and Children for Empowerment and Development (FCED) Foundation Inc., and Reina Federation, Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc. (PLCPD), Caraga Emergency Response Group (CERG), Mindanao Action Group for Children’s Rights and Protection (MAGCRP), Mindanao Emergency Response Network (MERN), World Vision, Intervida Philippines Foundation (Intervida), Cebu Court Appointed Special Advocates /Guardian Ad Litem (CASA/GAL)Volunteers Association Inc., Inclusive Education Network Chapter (IEN), Philippines Against Child Trafficking (PACT), Lingap Pangkabataan Inc., Angels of Peace Academy Foundation Inc., Open Heart Foundation, NGO Coalition, and ERDA.