PASIG CITY, October 16, 2017 – Department of Education (DepEd) Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Alberto Muyot recently underscored that the best interests of children must always be considered to protect them from abuse and other forms of violence.
Muyot made the call during the two-day Seminar-Workshop on Sexual Harassment and Child Abuse Investigation held at the DepEd-National Capital Region (NCR) from October 9-10, which was attended by the DepEd Legal Service staff and child protection officers from the Central Office and nearby field offices.
In his presentation, Muyot explained that acts of violence against children are rooted in failing to respect children as human beings, “When you treat children as properties, then that opens the door for abuse and other forms of violence against children.”
To battle this, he further expressed, “Every activity that we do, since we are a learner-centered institution, the focus should be on ensuring that the best interests of children are always realized and achieved.”
Muyot also explained the importance of a gender-sensitive organization in ensuring the best interests of learners, “We can only do that if the organization is gender-sensitive. Being gender-sensitive does not only look at sexual orientation, it is actually founded on the same concept of respect for the rights of others, which is at the foundation of human rights, including the rights of children.”
Child Protection Committee
To ensure that cases and instances of abuse are closely monitored at school level, Muyot mentioned the issuance of DepEd Order No. 40, series of 2012, or the DepEd Child Protection Policy, which requires all elementary and secondary schools—both public and private—to create their own Child Protection Committee (CPC).
The CPC is composed of the following: 1) School Head/Administrator as Chairperson; 2) Guidance Counselor/Teacher as Vice Chairperson; 3) Representatives of the teachers as designated by the Faculty Club; 4) Representative of the parents as designated by the Parents-Teachers Association (PTA); 5) Representative of learners as designated by the Supreme Student Council; and 6) Representative from the community as designated by the punong barangay, preferably a member of the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC).
Some of the roles of the CPC are: to ensure that learners are following a certain Code of Conduct in schools and that schools have their localized Child Protection Policy; to develop and implement a school-based referral and monitoring system of cases of all forms of abuse and bullying; and to identify, refer, and report cases of child abuse, exploitation, violence, discrimination, and bullying to the appropriate offices if needed, among others.
Moreover, DepEd released the DepEd Order No. 55, s. 2013, or the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act (RA) No. 10627, otherwise known as The Anti-Bullying Act of 2013, which further provides clearer rules on bullying and cyber-bullying. This was reiterated through DepEd Memorandum No. 5, s. 2017, or the Reiteration of the Department of Education Anti-Bullying Policy.
Children-at-risk and in conflict with the law
Juvenile Justice Welfare Council (JJWC) Policy Research and Development Division Chief Maria Lourdes Fugoso-Alcain, the resource person for this seminar-workshop, discussed: child rights programming; protocol for case management of child victims; conducting interviews with children in conflict with the law (CICL); and diversion programs for children-at-risk (CAR) and CICL, among others.
“Bawat tao, may karapatang pantao, inherent na human dignity. Kung anuman ang nagawa ng bata, hindi natin tinitingnan yung bata sa ginawa niyang offense. Hindi natin siya kinakahon as magnanakaw ng pencil, mangungupit, at iba pa. Mayroon siyang nagawang mali pero mayroon pa rin siyang human rights and dignity na we have to respect, protect, and fulfill,” Atty. Alcain said.
Capacity building efforts
Furthermore, DepEd-NCR Regional Director Ponciano Menguito mentioned the significance of capacitating DepEd personnel and child protection officers on the necessary policies and provisions to address the concerns and cases of child abuse and sexual harassment in schools.
“It's our wish to totally eliminate the incidents of child abuse and sexual harassment in our schools. And this will only happen when all our teachers and school officials are well informed and know how to address these concerns and to properly act under these circumstances,” he expressed.