Wake Up, Philippines!

Magna carta for women

Posted in Congress, Legislation, Women by Erineus on February 21, 2009

A commonly held belief is that Filipino women are a most privileged sector, enjoying the same rights and opportunities as the men. On the contrary, there are many areas in which women are not so privileged. The recent approval of the Magna Carta for Women in the Senate is thus a milestone piece of legislation. A similar bill in the House of Representatives, once joined with the Senate version and passing into law, will remove the discriminatory biases and practices against women.

Sen. Jamby Madrigal, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Youth, Women and Family Relations, was jubilant over the approval on second reading of Senate Bill No. 1701, also known as the Magna Carta for Women, saying that the “milestone legislation (defends) the human rights of the poor women who have no access to proper health care, who are marginalized and victims of discrimination and abuse.”

The proposed bill had been languishing in the Senate since the 12th Congress, said Madrigal, and, thanks to the “decisive leadership” of Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile, it got approved in the 14th Congress. Enrile, she said, “is not afraid to reckon with the various pressure groups opposing this bill.”

Enrile said the bill was “part of Congress’ effort to revise the discriminatory provisions against women in various laws existing in the country.”

These laws include provisions in the Family Code that pertains to a husband’s decision prevailing over the wife’s disagreements involving conjugal property, and in cases of parental authority and legal guardianship over the person and property of a common child. Also to be revised are provisions in the Labor Code and the Revised Penal Code covering night work prohibition for women workers and the Anti-Rape Law which defines marital rape and its penalties.

I don’t know how the House of Representatives will react to amendments of the provision that defines marital rape, and to the Revised Penal Code’s articles on concubinage and adultery, where women can be easily charged with adultery. The Muslim legislators may also have reservations about amendments covering polygamy, early and arranged marriages and unequal inheritance for women in the Code of Muslim Personal Laws.

The bill was sponsored on the floor by Madrigal’s committee. It was authored by Senators Pia Cayetano, Edgardo Angara, Panfilo Lacson, Ramon Revilla Jr., Richard Gordon, Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Manny Villar, Loren Legarda, and Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

Sen. Pia Cayetano, principal sponsor of the measure, said that the bill seeks “to boost the government’s commitment to uphold the human rights of women especially small farmers and rural workers, fisher folks, the urban poor, women in the military, migrant workers, indigenous people, Muslim women, senior citizens, persons with disabilities, and solo parents.”

The bill further enumerates the rights of marginalized women such as the right to food security and productive resources, housing, decent work, employment, livelihood, credit, capital and technology, education and training, and right to information and social participation. It also provides that the Commission on Human Rights can now oversee and hear complaints of discrimination against women.

A statement from Madrigal’s office said the senator considers the most important aspect of the bill its defining in the law of the meaning of “discrimination,” thus making unlawful all forms of discrimination against women. “Many Filipino women continue to suffer discrimination despite the enactment of pro-women laws, like the International Bill of Rights laid down by the United Nations in its general assembly on the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.”

Zubiri said gender equality is always on top of the international agenda. “The approval of this bill will strengthen gender equality and empowerment of women in the Philippines,” he said.

The bicameral conference committee has been meeting to reconcile differences between the Senate and House versions of the measure. Senator Cayetano has warned against attempts to emaciate the bill, saying that a watered-down version of the Magna Carta will render it toothless and ineffective in advancing women’s empowerment and welfare in the country.”

Both Madrigal and Cayetano are wary of Catholic forces which have blocked the passage of the bill since the 12th Congress.

As in the Reproductive Health Bill now pending in Congress, these forces have interpreted the Magna Carta for women as seeking to legalize abortion through various provisions upholding safe motherhood and women’s access to reproductive health information and services.

“Abortion is strictly prohibited under the 1987 Constitution,” said Cayetano. “Legislators will not allow it to be included in the Magna Carta, explicitly or otherwise.”

Cayetano said, “But with respect to contraceptives, which is allowed in some religions but considered taboo in others, I don’t think any religious group should impose its belief on what lawmakers should and should not legislate.

“Moreover, legislators, policymakers and local government units must realize that there are so many barangays across the country where women have little or no access to maternal health care. They do not receive pre-natal care, or give birth while attended to only by a ‘manghihilot’ who does not have the skills to ensure a safe delivery.”

Cayetano said the Philippines has the distinction of having one of the highest Maternal Mortality Rates (MMR) in the Southeast Asia Region.

Citing latest official data, she said the MMR in the Philippines was recorded at 163 maternal deaths per 100,000 births as of 2006. But the country’s target under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is to reduce MMR by three-fourths from 1990 to just 52.3 maternal deaths per 100,000 births by the year 2015.” At the current rate, the Philippines will be unable to meet this target.

“Ten to 11 Filipino mothers die each day while giving birth. This will not happen if the public health system is sufficiently able to provide reproductive health services to our people, especially the women.”

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My e-mail:dominimt2000@yahoo.com
View previous articles of this column.

By Domini M. Torrevillas

Updated February 21, 2009 12:00 AM

Never spank in anger

Posted in Anger, Children, Discipline, Family, Parenting by Erineus on February 11, 2009

IN the United States, the jury is still out on whether or not spanking should be part of the disciplinary process.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in its policy statement is not so much for it, but the American College of Pediatricians, a newly formed (2002) and more conservative breakaway group from the AAP, is in favor of it given certain parameters.

Having read both policy statements and interviewed three doctors, one of them an esteemed child psychologist, I appreciate that different disciplinary methods are to be applied depending on the child’s temperament and the circumstances surrounding the undesirable behavior that merit the sanction in the first place.

Dr. Cynthia Cuayo Juico, chair of the Philippine Pediatrics Society’s School Health Committee, says to avoid spanking, children must be trained really early in life what the desired behaviors are. She says spanking cannot be entirely avoided, especially when the child is very young and cannot yet comprehend the consequences of her action.

Some instances will require an immediate response, and a light “swat” is sometimes necessary. But the parent has to comfort the child afterwards and explain why the action was done.

“The important thing is that you communicate to the child clearly and consistently what the rule is exactly and why you had to do what you did—be it a spanking, a withdrawal of privileges,” she says.

This can be difficult with younger children. Spanking, if it needs to be used, must be employed only on children above 18 months old and only until the age of 7.

“After that age, you must make every effort to explain or use other means of discipline to get your child to toe the line, so to speak.”

Four C’s

Child and family psychologist Dr. Honey Carandang believes to avoid incidents of spanking, every parent must practice the four C’s of discipline—conviction, clarity, consistency and consequence.

Carandang says rules must be imposed in a positive and clear way so that the child will understand.

“Parents also need to be consistent with the rules they impose, because the child needs to be reminded on a regular basis, and when the rules are broken, they must be consistent with the discipline as well.”

The fourth C—consequence—comes into play once the rule is not followed.

“It is best not to administer any punishments while in a state of anger. Often, when parents spank unreasonably, it comes from a place where they need to release a negative emotion, usually frustration.”

Another important point is the element of respect. Carandang cites a McCann Ericsson study where hundreds of Filipino children and adolescents were asked if it was okay that their parents got mad at them. The unanimous reply: They were fine with being scolded as long as it was done out of respect.

Other forms

In an informal survey I conducted among 30 parents ranging in ages from 35-45, only 20 percent of them admitted to having spanked/swatted their children—maybe twice or thrice by the age of 7. The rest had decided they would use other forms of discipline—witholding privileges, timeout (for the younger ones) or keeping them grounded.

“Talking works better with my kids, and it actually takes a lot out of a parent, more than spanking ever would,” one parent said.

Majority of these parents—85 percent of them had grown up (like myself) feeling the brunt of their parents’ slipper or belt. The memory was not at all pleasant, and these same parents have refrained from spanking their children.

Spanking was often only done when the siblings were in a free-for-all, usually among the boys in the family. And they spanked only as last resort, when all admonitions had been disregarded, or there was willful disobedience of the child.

To discipline, one must exhaust other means before a parent thinks about spanking. If the child still does not comply, the parent would be better off seeking professional help both for himself/herself and the child having the behavioral problem.

Spanking should never escalate and must never injure a child physically (eg, leaving him or her black and blue or with welts on the body).

“I don’t remember the lesson,” a parent-respondent told me as she recalled the memory of a particularly bad spanking she got as a child. “All I can recall is the black-and-blue mark and the rage my father had as he whacked my thigh.”

This same mother has never spanked her children, who are now all well-adjusted college students.


The American Academy of Pediatrics has reported that the more children are hit, the more anger they report as adults. Also, the more they hit their own children when they are parents, the more likely they are to approve of hitting and to actually hit their spouses, and consequently the greater their marital conflict.

The American College of Pediatricians, meanwhile, (http://acpeds.org) gives guidelines for parental use of disciplinary spanking:

1. Spanking should be used selectively for clear, deliberate misbehavior, particularly that which arises from a child’s persistent defiance of a parent’s instruction. It should be used only when the child receives at least as much encouragement and praise for good behavior, as correction for problem behavior.

2. Milder forms of discipline, such as verbal correction, logical and natural consequences, and timeout should be used initially, followed by spanking when noncompliance persists.

3. Spanking should not be done on impulse or when a parent is out of control. Never spank in anger.

4. Spanking is usually not necessary until after 18 months, less necessary after 6 years, and rarely, if ever, should be used after 10 years of age.

5. The child should be forewarned of the spanking (in my experience, this is usually enough to get them to comply) for designated problem behaviors. And the spanking should always be administered in private to avoid embarrassment. After the spanking, a parent must reconnect in a warm manner with the child, explaining the punishment and reviewing the offense.

Look inward

Use spanking very sparingly—if you must. Examine the circumstances behind the misbehavior, remember that discipline must be done with love, because the objective is to correct the wrong and not release one’s frustration.

Thus, if you are a parent with anger issues, please refrain from using spanking. Take a step back when you feel like you are about to lose it. Look inward and settle your own demons. Do not project them upon your hapless child.

How to promote positive behavior instead

Maintain a positive emotional tone in the home through play and parental warmth and affection for the child.

Provide attention to the child to increase positive behavior. For older children, attention includes being aware of and interested in their school and other activities.

Provide consistency in the form of regular times and patterns for daily activities and interactions to reduce resistance, convey respect for the child, and make negative experiences less stressful.

Be flexible, particularly with older children and adolescents, through listening and negotiation to reduce fewer episodes of child noncompliance with parental expectations. Involving the child in decision-making has been associated with long-term enhancement in moral judgment.

(From the AAP guidelines on child discipline)

E-mail the author at cathybabao @gmail.com

By Cathy S. Babao Guballa
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:56:00 02/10/2009