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Child rights groups call to protect Filipino children during coronavirus pandemic

Several children's rights organizations issued a joint statement, calling on the public and the government to ensure the protection of Filipino children during the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns in the country.

"While children's health appears to be less directly affected by COVID-19 (coronavirus disease), it must be recognized that the outbreak will deeply affect the environment where children grow and develop," the statement read.

The signed organizations include ChildFund, Educo, Plan International, Save the Children, SOS Children's Villages, and Terre des Hommes International. They comprise the Joining Forces Alliance on the Elimination of Violence Against Children.

“The crisis we are in requires cooperation from all stakeholders including civil society organizations and networks like usSadly, what is often overlooked is the impact this situation will have on children, especially those who are most deprived and marginalized,” said Rowena Cordero, Joining Forces Alliance Convenor.

“In situations like this, children’s safety, protection, and well-being may be put at risk, and their rights may be violated and compromised,” Cordero stressed.

Education, livelihood on hold

With Luzon under "enhanced community quarantine" since March 17, which is expected to end on April 30, all classes have been suspended on the island too. Other areas outside Luzon have also called their own community quarantines to stem the outbreak.

On top of a pandemic's effect on students, some of their parents may also be challenged due to the disruption of their economic activities. In 2018, the Department of Labor and Employment estimated that more than 15 million parents and guardians are reliant on the informal economy.

The Joining Forces Alliance said that such economic stress and education disruption could significantly increase in cases of child labor, sexual exploitation, and violence against children.

Suggested measures

In order to prevent and respond to incidents of human rights violations against children, and to protect them further from COVID-19, the alliance gave the following suggestions.

  • Protection and social welfare services should have adequate funding support.
  • Special attention must be given to communities placed under quarantine. This should include collecting data (age, sex, disability) and monitoring of children at increased risk of violence, exploitation, abuse, and neglect.
  • At the local level, barangays and municipalities should ensure that the Barangay Child Protection Committee (BCPC), Gender Desks, Sexual Harassment Desks, and Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC) Desks are functional.
  • National and local authorities must also ensure that planning and decision-making processes include voices of the children themselves, ensuring that their perspectives are heard and their needs are met. 

On Sunday, April 5, a barangay captain in Pampanga made LGBTQ+ persons do lewd acts and do a sexy dance in front of a minor as punishment for violating curfew rules.

Poor families that have children's mouths to feed are also faced with the fear of dying of hunger more than COVID-19 due to the Luzon lockdown.

As of Wednesday, April 8, the Philippines has had 3,870 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 182 deaths and 96 recoveries.

On March 17, President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire Philippines under a state of calamity. – Rappler.com

Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a researcher-writer at Rappler. Possessing the heart and soul of a feminist, she is working on specializing in women's issues in Newsbreak, Rappler's investigative arm.

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