Child Rights Network (CRN), the largest alliance of organizations and agencies pushing for children’s rights legislation in the Philippines, lauds the House of Representatives for the passage of House Bill No. 8239 or the “Positive and Non-Violent Discipline of Children Act” on third and final reading this Monday, November 12.

HB 8239 seeks to protect children from physical, humiliating, or degrading acts as a form of punishment in all settings, and help parents, teachers, and caregivers practice positive discipline through a comprehensive program by the government and civil society organizations. The bill defines corporal punishment as a form of punishment or discipline in which “physical force is used and intended to cause pain or discomfort or any non-physical act that causes a child to feel belittled, denigrated, threatened, or ridiculed.”

The Bill also recognizes that parents and caregivers need support in understanding positive and non-violent discipline and will therefore be provided with access to rehabilitative therapies, and seminars on positive discipline, anger management, and children’s rights, as may be applicable. Meanwhile, under the same bill, child victims of physical, degrading, and humiliating forms of punishment will also be provided counseling and other proper interventions.

The passage of this bill is a landmark paradigm shift from our long-held culture of inflicting violence to discipline children. We believe that in providing a clear legal framework, our society can change the tradition of inflicting violent punishment against children, which statistics prove to remain prevalent in the Philippines.

According to the 2015 National Baseline Study on Violence against Children conducted by the Council for the Welfare of Children and UNICEF, three out of five Filipino children have experienced physical and psychological violence and more than half of this is happening at home.

Meanwhile, in a survey conducted by Pulse Asia in 2011, two in three Filipino parents use physical punishments to discipline their children. The same survey revealed that eight out of 10 parents have also experienced corporal punishment as children. Meanwhile 41% of parents say that they will support a law banning corporal punishment and are interested in practicing positive discipline actions instead.

HB 8239 again shows how our legislators are firm in adhering to the country’s commitment to various international agreements that seek to protect children’s rights, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), and Convention on the Rights of the Child.

We note that HB 8239 is an important step in the right direction for the Philippine government to fulfill its commitments to the UNCRC, particularly Article 19 which states, “Governments must do all they can to ensure that children are protected from all forms of violence, abuse, neglect and bad treatment by their parents or anyone else who looks after them.”

We would like to stress that without this landmark piece of legislation, no existing Philippine law clearly protects children from physical, degrading, and humiliating forms of punishment, especially violence happening at home. Hence, this should be of utmost priority of the national government.

We strongly urge the enactment of a national law that clearly protects children from violence in all settings of our society.