By Vince Alvic Alexis F. Nonato, Reporter

DoJ: Pending child care bills too broad, redundant

Posted on March 29, 2016

THE Department of Justice has recommended further study on several House bills covering children’s rights and foster care, after finding some provisions too broad or redundant.

While it clarified it “finds no legal or constitutional objection” to the pending House bills, the DoJ pointed to several provisions in its three-page letter to Rep. Aurora Enerio-Cerilles, the chairperson of the House Committee on the Welfare of Children.

The March 1 letter, signed by Undersecretary Zabedin M. Azis, flagged as “too broad” the H.B. No. 594 (Irresponsible Parenting Act of 2013) provision that penalizes the act of allowing minors to loiter in public unsupervised.

It said the broadness of the law, authored by YACAP Party-list Rep. Carol Jayne B. Lopez, may also cover and penalize acts that can normally be deemed responsible.

One example given by the DoJ: a minor going out with friends with the parent’s permission, although unaccompanied by an adult.

“While we understand the intention of the provision we nevertheless find it too broad to cover any act which can also be described as a responsible action of parents depending on surrounding circumstances,” the letter said.

Ms. Lopez’s bill plans to punish parents for the unsupervised loitering of their children with imprisonment of six months to one year and/or fine of P10,000 to P20,000 for first-time offenders. By the third violation, the penalty would increase to two to four years’ imprisonment and/or a P40,000-P60,000 fine.

Meanwhile, the DoJ also noted that House Bills Nos. 2811 and 4855 -- both of which concern alternative child care -- are “already covered by existing laws” on adoption and foster care.

HB No. 2811 (introduced by Pampanga 2nd District Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her son, Camarines Sur 2nd District Rep. Diosdado Ignacio Macapagal-Arroyo) specifically proposes a National Child Care Authority. The NCCA will be attached to the Department of Social Welfare and Development and will formulate adoption guidelines and keep records on all such cases.

But the letter said the proposed body will replicate the functions of the existing Council on the Welfare of Children’s Committee on Family and Alternative Parental Care.

“Thus, we suggest creating a technical working group to further study on the necessity of the bills and to avoid duplication of mandate and functions of created committee/authority,” the letter read.

The DoJ letter also suggested the National Strategic Missing Children Recovery Program, proposed by H.B. Nos. 77 and 3052, be expanded to all missing persons and not just children.

“We also suggest to refer the matter to a technical working group to encompass protection of all persons, including children and adults who may have been victims of abductions, natural disaster, trafficking, among others....” the letter said.