By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – For children’s rights advocates and a group of teachers, enacting a bill that prohibits corporal punishment of children is not enough. For them, eliminating conditions that foster violence is more important.
The House of Representatives recently passed on third and final reading House Bill (HB) 4455 or The Positive and Non-Violent Discipline on Children Act, a proposed law that prohibits parents, guardians, teachers and elders from subjecting a child to any form of corporal punishment or physical psychological threats.
While the Center for Rehabilitation of Children (CRC) welcomes the bill that protects children from violence, the group said the bill is not rooted to the causes of the problem.
In an interview with Bulatlat.com, Jacqueline Ruiz, CRC executive director, explained that there are conditions that make a parent or a teacher, among others, inflicts such punishments.
Under the bill, corporal punishment refers “to cruel and unusual punishment or acts that subject the child to indignities and other excessive chastisement that embarrasses or humiliates the child.” Among prohibited punishment on a child are blows, but not limited to kicking, hitting, slapping, beating, and lashing any part of the child’s body. Any parent, guardian or teacher that would found violating the law will be punished as mandated by the Republic Act 7610 or the anti-child abuse law.
Ruiz said aside from lack of education on effective ways to discipline children, parents tend to respond to their children’s misdemeanor through spanking, verbal abuse or hitting them because of economic reasons. In urban poor communities where families are struggling everyday to bring food on their table, a parent’s exhaustion and frustration often causes such harmful treatment to their children, Ruiz said.
“Sometimes the cause of these harmful treatments to children is brought about by economic reasons and this is evident especially in urban poor communities. Why do parents resort to hitting their children? It is because of dire poverty. Mothers, as well as fathers, are bewildered on how they would send their kids to school, where they would get the money to feed them. For example, a child is persistently asking for something and the parent cannot give it because they do not have money, the tendency is to respond through hitting and not explaining to the child why they cannot give it to them,” Ruiz said.
Ruiz said that parents should make their children understand their situation. “It is not true that children will never understand them just because they are still children. Children could think since they were conceived.”
Ruiz said “if the government only provides decent jobs for the people, such treatments may not be prevalent.”
Ruiz also said feudal relationship in the family also results in the hitting of children. “Because of our culture, it is still a struggle to break that feudal relationship between a child and a parent. The children have the right to express how they feel and this act is often deemed as disrespectful of someone who is older to them.”
Meanwhile, there were reports that teachers subject their pupils to corporal punishment.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) said while they stand firm against corporal punishment as a form of disciplining their students, there is a need to look at the teachers’ condition that cause this problem.
France Castro, ACT secretary general, Castro said the rotten system in education makes teachers resort to harmful discipline. “If you look at our public schools, the numbers of students are doubled. Instead of standard student number of 40 to 45, there are 70 to 80 students in one classroom plus the environment is not conducive to students and teachers.”
Castro added that teachers are overworked and underpaid. “The burden is on us, we have to teach the students and at the same time discipline them. Teachers are only humans too.”
Castro said a trained and qualified guidance counselor would help to prevent corporal punishment.
“If only there are no classroom shortages and there are enough teachers, these cases of corporal punishment would be avoided,” Castro said.