The House Committee on Appropriations has approved the funding provision of a substitute bill seeking to provide special protection for children in situations of armed conflict (CSAC).

The committee chaired by Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles (1st District, Davao City) approved the bill without amendment to its appropriations provision.

Section 32 of the bill provides that the amount necessary to cover the initial implementation of the Act shall be charged against the current year’s appropriations of the concerned implementing departments/agencies.

Thereafter, the amount necessary for its continued implementation shall be included in the budgets of the concerned departments/agencies in the annual General Appropriations Act.

Representative Manuel Jose Dalipe (2nd District, Zamboanga City)

The bill endeavors to make the structure of Executive Order (EO) No. 138 of 2013, which adopted the Comprehensive Program for Children in Armed Conflict, more responsive, according to Rep. Manuel Jose Dalipe (2nd District, Zamboanga City), one of the principal authors of the bill.

“We cannot allow children to be used by armed groups or armed forces to further their beliefs. We cannot allow their schooling to be disrupted by armed conflict without putting a framework,” said Dalipe.

On the other hand, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) expressed opposition to the bill. DSWD Undersecretary Mae Fe Templa said existing laws protecting children in various situations as provided by Republic Act 7610, the Juvenile Welfare Act or Republic Act 9344, and the Revised Penal Code are more than enough to protect children in various situations, in particular, situations of armed conflict.

“We further support these existing laws and thus, appropriations should be increased to support and strengthen the programs and services identified by these laws,” said Templa.

The bill prohibits violation of grave child rights, penalizing this with six years to lifetime imprisonment and fines of up to P2-million. Non-implementation or violations by public officers shall be punished by imprisonment of six to 12 years and perpetual absolute disqualification from public office.

The rehabilitation and reintegration, rescue, and release of children is provided for by the bill as well.

In particular, Section 23 of the bill mandates the State to take all feasible measures to ensure children involved in armed conflict (CIAC)—those recruited or used in armed conflict—are demobilized, dissociated or otherwise released from the armed force or group. It adds that release activities shall be initiated independent of negotiated peace agreements.

The State and relevant government agencies are tasked to develop a child-specific release program that should not make as a requirement the surrender of arms by CIAC; the monitoring and documentation of the status of CIAC who undergo a formal or informal release process; and share data and information between government and nongovernment entities to assess the needs or released CIAC, among others.

The Inter-Agency Committee on Children Involved in Armed Conflict (IAC-CIAC) created in EO No. 138 shall become the Inter-Agency Committee on Children in Situations of Armed Conflict (IAC-CSAC) to effectively undertake the measure.

It shall be chaired by the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC), while members include the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Commission on Human Rights, Philippine Commission on Women, and other government organizations.

In addition, relevant government bodies shall submit to the CWC an inventory of custody of CSAC.

But as the contentions lie outside the jurisdiction of the appropriations committee, these will be addressed during deliberations of the committee on welfare of children.


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