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BILL PROTECTING RIGHTS OF FOUNDLINGS PUSHED

Opposition Senator Leila de Lima urged her colleagues to help push for the passage of the bill promoting the rights of and providing greater protections to deserted or abandoned children with unknown parents or foundlings to help them grow and be productive citizens of the country.

In her sponsorship speech of the Foundling Recognition and Protection Act, authored by Senator Risa Hontiveros and co-authored by De Lima herself and Senator Lito Lapid, De Lima said she and her fellow senators should fulfill their mandate in enacting legislation to address the needs of the foundlings in the country.

The legislator’s speech entitled “Justice for Those Who Were Found” was adopted into Senate records last May 25.

“For too long, we have ignored fulfilling our mandate in enacting legislation to address the needs of the foundlings in our country. Today, we submit this piece of legislation that would establish under our laws, the status of these foundlings, and recognize their rights as natural-born citizens of this country,” the lawmaker said.

“I respectfully urge my colleagues in this august chamber to do another act of justice and kindness.”

“I respectfully urge my colleagues in this august chamber to do another act of justice and kindness by enacting this piece of legislation,” the lady senator added.

Senate Bill (SB) No. 2233, filed under Committee Report No. 263, seeks to recognize the rights of foundlings as natural-born citizens of the Philippines and provides penalties against acts inimical to their welfare, thereby amending Articles 276 and 277 of the Revised Penal Code and Special Laws.

The proposed measure defines foundling as a deserted or abandoned child or infant with unknown facts of birth and parentage.

This includes those who have been duly registered as a foundling during her or his infant childhood, but have reached the age of majority without benefitting from adoption procedures upon the passage of the law.

De Lima, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, said it is a recognized principle in international law that each State has the right to determine who its citizens are, and, by its laws, establish standards that would confer nationality to its people.

“Through this bill, we address, once and for all, the dilemma of these children who suffered the misfortune for which they are not responsible,” she said.

“A child whose parents are both unknown shall have the nationality of the country of birth.”

Citing the Hague Convention, De Lima stressed that “a child whose parents are both unknown shall have the nationality of the country of birth. If the child’s parentage is established, its nationality shall be determined by the rules applicable in cases where the parentage is known. A foundling is, until the contrary is proved, presumed to have been born on the territory of the State in which it was found.”

She likewise highlighted the rights of foundlings as provided under the 1961 United Nations Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness: “[a] foundling found in the territory of a Contracting State shall, in the absence of proof to the contrary, be considered to have been born within the territory of parents possessing the nationality of that State.”

De Lima said the Supreme Court already affirmed that adopting such legal principles from the 1930 Hague Convention and the 1961 Convention on Statelessness “is rational and reasonable and consistent with the jus sanguinis regime in our Constitution”.

“It is, therefore, not only equitable, but also constitutional that we provide a legal regime, through legislation, on the status of the foundlings in our country and recognize their full rights as natural-born Filipinos,” she stressed.

Under SB No. 2233, a foundling shall be recognized as the legitimate child of the finder from the time of her/his birth, provided that the founder has met all requirements proving that he can provide the needs of the foundling.

Likewise, as provided in the measure, appropriate agencies, such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Philippine Statistics Agency, and the Local Government Units, are mandated to extend all forms of assistance necessary to identify, register, nurture and protect the foundlings to enable them to fully realize themselves as a productive part of our country.

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