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NGOs call on 2013 candidates to take up children’s causes

With campaigning for the May 2013 elections set to start in a few months, children’s-causes groups have urged political parties and politicians to put children's welfare on top of their campaign platforms.   “The children are asking for candidates of the Liberal Party (LP) and United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) to prioritize children’s concerns, to refocus their loyalty to children and not to certain personalities,” Minerva Cabiles, child rights governance adviser of Save the Children said in a statement Wednesday.   During the National Children’s Forum held at the Amoranto Theater last November 17, some 240 children and youths from 43 child-led organizations nationwide developed a wish list that they hoped politicians would adopt.   The event, themed “Mahalaga kami, Unahin Kami!”, is part of the celebration of the 23rd Anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC).   The forum was organized by the Children Talk to Children About the UN CRC (C2C) Project which is being supported by the Samahan ng Mamamayan-Zone One Tondo, Inc. (ZOTO) and Save the Children.   "The children want LP to mean Let’s Prioritize the children while UNA for UNAhin ang mga bata,” Cabiles said.   During the forum, the children’s groups asked the government and candidates for the May 2013 elections to include the immediate passage of the Bill Promoting Positive and Non-Violent Forms Discipline or the Anti-Corporal Punishment Bill in their respective platforms. They called for the passage of the controversial Reproductive Health Bill as they said it ensures the provision of age appropriate reproductive health information and services for children.   They suggested the full implementation of the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act and to stop all efforts in amending the law to lower the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12 years old.   The groups recommend the effective and full implementation of laws against child abuse, trafficking, pornography, labor and bullying.   They also recommended the creation of local councils for the protection of children; child protection committees in schools; inter-agency coordination and support programs such as job opportunities for families and alternative learning systems; among others.   Children’s organizations also called on the government to provide a larger budget allocation for children, strengthen the Sangguniang Kabataan and other mechanisms for children’s meaningful participation in governance, develop child-friendly infrastructures and safe places for children in the communities, and accessible community-based health programs including programs that deal with malnutrition.   Finally, the children’s groups made special recommendations for protection measures for children with disabilities, children involved in armed conflict and children in situations of disasters and emergencies.   “The next best thing for the Philippines to do right now is to consider the recommendations of the children and carry out more effective policies and programs for children right away,” said Cabiles.   Deficiencies Anna Lindenfors, Country Director of Save the Children in the Philippines, said the Philippines was making significant progress in the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. But poverty, armed conflict, and deficiencies in domestic legislation posed serious challenges in improving the lives of children.   “Almost half of the population in the Philippines are children. With a population growth rate of nearly 2% per year, not enough resources are made available to ensure their rights are realized,” she said.   “The people from the government as well as aspirants in the 2013 elections should do more for the Filipino children. They should put the children at the center of their programs and platforms of governance,” Lindenfors added. The campaign period for senatorial candidates and party-list groups will start on February 12 while March 29 is the start-date for candidates for the House of Representatives and elective regional, provincial, city and municipal officials. — DVM, GMA News