With an alarming number of 2.6 million unregistered Filipino children, Child Rights Network (CRN) reaches out to legislators and local government units for a comprehensive civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) system in a media forum held on February 27, 2019 at Quezon City Circle.
In celebration of the Birth Registration Month, CRN organized the forum to share its stance on the current situation of the birth registration system, and to launch its campaign “Register Every Pinoy Child Now”. CRN recognizes the key role of CRVS in securing the rights of children, their access to social services, and their protection from exploitation such as human trafficking, child labor, and child abuse.
Pauline de Guzman, CRN representative said, “The right to an identity is one of the rights that most people have taken for granted. Without a legal identity, he or she is invisible in the eyes of the government.”
2.6 million is just 35% of the unregistered Filipinos. This means that 7.5 million Filipinos do not have access to civil registry documents. Among the civil registry documents, the birth certificate is the most important document one should have because it serves as an access to rights and services. A birth certificate is prerequisite to most government services such as Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), scholarships, and healthcare services.
Why are Filipino children not registered?
De Guzman mentioned, “Poverty and geographical barriers are among the reasons why many children cannot have their births registered on time.” Registration offices are too far away, and fees are not affordable for poor Filipinos.
To have an authenticated and valid civil registry documents such as birth certificate, one should get a copy from PSA, and not from local civil registry office. This is one of the bottlenecks of the current system. The number of regional and field offices of Philippine Statistics Authority is not directly proportional to the number of municipalities of the Philippines, which implies that it would be inaccessible and costly for those living in far flung municipalities.
Congressman Teddy Baguilat, one of the forum panelists, said, “If ever this (CRVS) is going to be passed, we really need to go down to the LGUs. I think nabanggit na kanina nina Connie tsaka ni Pauline, because civil registration really is an LGU and municipal government mandate.
Congressman Baguilat then recalls an issue he encountered previously in his home province of Ifugao when the people had trouble registering for birth certificates. He said that the local government then decided to waive the fees to make civil registration accessible to the people in said province. He adds that they (Congress) are pushing for civil registration to be given as a task on the municipal level so that processing and acquiring birth certificates become more accessible to people, even to those from far flung areas.
Hardship awaits those without birth certificate
Princess, 22, is a foundling and has grown up in Virlanie Foundation, a member organization of CRN. Through Virlanie, she was given a Foundling certificate. This has served as her proof of legal identity as a child. Now that she’s independent, she needs her birth certificate to apply for a job and acquire other government IDs. She shared, “When I went to Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), I was asked to fill up a form. I kept the part of mother and father blank. When I was about to pay, I was asked why I didn’t put a mother and a father, so I told them “I am a foundling.” I noticed that they didn’t know what to do because I don’t have parents.”
She experienced the same treatment and difficulties when she went to Social Security System (SSS) and Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to get an SSS ID and a passport, respectively. “I told them, “What can I do? I don’t have one. I am a foundling. I grew up in a Foundation.” I said everything they needed to know. They still didn’t process my request,” she added.
“As soon as the child is born, the child has to be registered, and that is the only piece of legal document that the child needs to have. So that is, as we say, the passport of the child to other services that the child will have to access from the day the child is born onwards,” said Ma. Consolacion Salcedo, forum panelist and Policy and Planning Division Head of the Council for the Welfare of Children (CFWC), “so everything else is affected without the birth certificate of a person or a child”, she added.
Salcedo also said that pushing for accessible civil rights registry has been long advocated for by CFWC and other civil society organizations as it is the right of every child to have their own identity (name and nationality) in accordance to United Nation’s (UN) Convention of the Rights of the Child.
Free and inclusive CRVS system
To address such issues, CRN enjoins the government to establish an efficient and responsive CRVS system. De Guzman said, “An efficient CRVS system should address the difficulties of birth registration by making it accessible to people, simplifying the procedures, and removing or minimizing the fees required for birth registration. Every Pinoy child should have access to civil registration.
CRN further calls for digitization and establishment of culturally-sensitive Barangay Civil Registration System. This is to encourage more Muslim and IP communities to have their vital events registered as soon as possible. It also calls out to local government units to waive fees on delayed registration as it hinders poor Filipinos from getting their legal identity.
Child Rights Network (CRN) is the largest alliance of organizations and agencies pushing for children’s rights legislation in the Philippines. CRN has a membership of 46 organizations across Luzon, Visayan, and Mindanao.
Contact details: Facebook: www.facebook.com/CRN Philippines/ Twitter: @CRNPhilippines Instagram: @CRNPhilippines
Website: www.childrightsnetwork.ph/ Email: [email protected]
Contact persons: Richard Dy Communications Lead Child Rights Network 0998 531 2876 [email protected]