Children say “We matter too”

The Bata Muna Movement, along with the Children Talk to Children (C2C) and Child Rights Network (CRN), launched today the Bata Muna Campaign in a bid to influence the outcome of the 2016 Philippine National Elections in favor of Filipino children. Children dressed as miniature versions, or “mini mes,” of selected presidential candidates staged a short skit challenging the political candidates to put children at the forefront of their electoral agendas.

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Grace Poe was represented by Girl Poe, Jojo Binay by Boy Binay, Mar Roxas by Kid Roxas, and Miriam Santiago by Miriam Young. They were also joined by a young Andres Bonifacio, who called on today’s candidates to finally right the wrongs that have persisted since his time.

“The children comprise 44% of the country’s population but their rights and issues are often not prioritized in the electoral and political agendas for the simple reason that they cannot yet vote,” said Rowena D. Cordero, Deputy Country Director of Save the Children. “We believe that the realization of children’s rights should be demonstrated by the highest office of the land. It is high time that these presidential candidates take a stand to protect the most vulnerable members of our society.”

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The Bata Muna Campaign aims to foster public discourse about children’s situation; raise public awareness on the power of smart voting and the accountability of elected government officials towards the realization of children’s rights; and allow children to engage the electoral campaign meaningfully.

“Life is hard in the Philippines. The problems that we experience, such as corporal punishment, disasters due to deterioration of the environment, substance abuse, unsafe communities, malnutrition and early pregnancy, still persist,” said Jalyn, 15 years old, from Quezon Province.

The Bata Muna Movement urges the candidates to stand-up for children, and to specifically uphold the following important actions:

(1) Pass the Positive Discipline Bill;
(2) Regulate and monitor the activities of the logging and mining companies and ensure that their businesses do not inflict harm on affected communities, most especially the children in those communities;
(3) Ensure that anti-illegal drugs programs are in place in every barangay to protect children from substance abuse; strengthen anti-illegal drug programs in every barangay and implement programs that will prevent children from engaging in substance abuse;
(4) Provide safe and decent homes and communities for urban poor children and their families, especially those affected by urban relocation programs;
(5) Ensure that children have access to quality health services and free medicines to prevent malnutrition; establish teen centers in every barangay where young adolescents will have access to age-appropriate information and services on adolescent sexual and reproductive health to prevent early pregnancy.

“The country’s electoral process is the perfect arena to advance the rights and welfare of children. Political candidates are in a position to influence and create voters who are aware of and demand children’s rights,” said Butch Ablir, Executive Director of Zone One Tondo Organization (ZOTO). “We challenge our presidential hopefuls to make clear and focused commitments towards these actions and to follow through once they are elected. Children matter, too.”

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Other activities for the day-long launch included a Children’s Festival featuring storytelling, arts and crafts, film and dance workshops, and games. A concert was also held in the evening with performances from Kitchie Nadal, Kaleidoscope Eyes, Noel Cabangon, Maybunga Street Dance, Darryl Shy, Zone One Band, and Jireh Lim.

“Bata Muna” is a nationwide campaign aimed at advancing children’s issues in the 2016 elections. It started bringing children’s rights into the arena of politics and governance during the 2013 national elections. It is also a movement of civil society organizations that aspires to strengthen citizenship and shift voting behavior by shaping a more informed, more responsible, and more critical voting public, and to build the foundation for a stronger and broader civil society and children’s movement for children’s rights in the Philippines.

The Child Rights Network (CRN), is composed of 21 child focused organizations advocating for child rights-based legislation. The network’s legislative agenda, since it was established in 2009, is focused on the protection of children from all forms of violence and abuse in all settings.

The Children Talk to Children or C2C is a national coalition of nineteen (19) child-led groups and other child-rights focused children and youth organizations. The C2C is involved in monitoring CRC implementation in the Philippines and in local and national advocacies on various children’s issues identified and prioritized by the children.

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