MANILA, 1 March 2019 – UNICEF is deeply saddened by the Philippine President’s veto of the Positive and Non-Violent Discipline Law. On 23 February 2019, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte returned to Congress the Positive and Non-Violent Discipline Law without his signature, thereby vetoing the bill.
Contrary to the impression that the law encroaches on parents’ right to discipline their child, this law seeks to promote positive discipline instead of corporal punishment – a severe form of violence against children.
Positive discipline is a non-violent approach to help and guide children develop positive behavior while respecting their rights to healthy development, protection from violence, and participative learning as highlighted by the Government of the Philippines in the 2017-2022 Philippine Plan of Action to End Violence Against Children. Violence Against Children (VAC) is a global problem confronting every country in the world including the Philippines. Children in the Philippines are not spared from this problem at home – a place where they are supposed to feel safe.
The Philippine Government has already taken steps toward addressing this deep-seated problem of violent discipline or corporal punishment when it undertook its own National Baseline Study on VAC in 2015. This and other initiatives have garnered recognition for the Philippines as an active regional leader in promoting reputable standards of child protection, particularly through child-friendly legislation. However, the non-passage of the Positive and Non-Discipline Law goes against these standards and is a missed opportunity to once again take leadership in delivering the country’s obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The National Baseline Study on Violence against Children (NBS VAC) in 2015 revealed that about 3 in 5 respondents (64.2%) experienced physical violence during childhood: more than half (57%) of these cases happened in the home. In particular, 1 in 2 received corporal punishments in the home such as spanking with a bare hand, rolled paper or small stick, and pulling of hair, pinching or twisting of ears. About a third (30.4%) suffered severe forms of abuse such as slapping, kicking, smothering, tying, drowning, or burning. About 4.6 per cent were physically harmed in the home which required hospitalization.
A national study on the Drivers of Violence Affecting Children in the Philippines show that violent discipline is the most frequent form of violence against both boys and girls in the home, driven by factors including social norms around the use of and the effectiveness of discipline, authoritarian parenting, and a parent’s level of education.
Children who experience corporal punishment also experience higher levels of aggression and anxiety. Harsh physical punishment and hurtful verbal discipline may lead to overall poor psychological and emotional adjustment. The Council for the Welfare of Children reported in 2016 that parents and children they’ve spoken to described an ideal home setting as one where positive discipline is practiced.
The Philippine Plan of Action to End VAC (PPAEVAC), based on evidence and validated by actual statements from children and parents, highlights the need to provide parents with support through interventions. Government agencies and NGOs have already joined forces to meet this need. In fact, even Pres. Duterte recognized the PPAEVAC as a valuable guide for “various agencies, sectoral groups and the entire society towards reducing cases of violence involving the youth.” The President in the same message recognized the value of our children in society and went on to rally the public asking everyone to “work together to secure their well-being and to allow them to explore the world with confidence, self-respect and dignity.” The same national plan lauded by the President recognizes the passage of the positive discipline law as a key requirement to prevent violence against children.
Having a law promoting positive discipline and prohibiting corporal punishment will enable existing programs and policies of the Philippine Government to protect more children. The Department of Education is implementing its Child Protection Policy that prohibits corporal punishment nationwide. The Positive and Non-Violent Discipline Law will strengthen the implementation of this policy. The Department of Social Welfare and Development is undertaking research to produce evidence-based parenting support interventions to prevent violence and support positive discipline programming.
We call on the Government to uphold its responsibility to respect, protect, and fulfill children’s rights and to support all measures that supports families. This year, we celebrate 30 years of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – a commitment the Philippines pledged to uphold. The passage of the Positive and Non-Violent Discipline Law institutionalizing positive and non-violent discipline in all settings will strengthen the Philippines’ commitment to Filipino children to take all measures to ensure that their rights are respected, protected and fulfilled.
We reiterate that the proposed law does not take away from parents the responsibility of raising their child or give more authority to the Government. Rather, it contributes to protecting and assisting families as nurturers of children. The proposed measure ensures the promotion and protection of children’s survival and development rights, including their basic rights to life, survival, and the development of his or her full potential. The Government needs to support the Filipino family to ensure that no child should have to experience violence, especially in a place where he or she needs to feel the safest.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children in the Philippines, visit www.unicef.ph.