Transcript of Sen. Grace Poe’s Privilege Speech

Mr. President, I rise to speak to commemorate the National Children's month - for the children who, regardless of their circumstances, are our future. We have to make sure that they are provided with an environment where they can thrive, explore, achieve their full potential - all while enjoying the entire process. To achieve this, we need to address squarely the legal, social, and cultural impediments. Among the many issues I am passionate about pursuing is the severe issues and abuses being faced by Filipino children today, the most defenseless of our society.

In the course of last year's presidential campaign, I met many people in poverty-stricken areas. And though they managed to greet me with eager smiles and hugs, most of them would tell me about the problems they faced. Many were about the cost of living, the lack of food and absence of decent job opportunities. Tama yung sinabi nila, "sa sine lang masaya ang mahihirap."

In the SWS survey conducted during the 4th quarter of 2015, it was found that 2.6 million families experienced involuntary hunger at least once in the past three months. That's about 12 million Filipinos or around 12% of our total population!

The daily struggle to find a decent meal is real. And children, of course, are the most vulnerable in this situation. In April 2013, the UNICEF, reported that we have 3.6 million stunted children, which made the Philippines rank 9th in the list of countries with highest incidence of stunting.

Nakita naman natin kanina, binigyan natin ng parangal si Paeng Nepomuceno at si Ms. Bong Coo. Kita mo naman ang kanilang sukat, sila ay matatangkad kaya malaking tulong iyan sa kanilang naging karera. Pero marami sa ating mga kabataan ay kasingtangkad ko lang o mas maliit pa.

Paliit nang paliit ang mga batang Pinoy. Filipinos are in fact the second shortest race in Southeast Asia today.

In the same year, we ranked 10th among countries with the highest incidence of wasting. Hindi ito wasted na lasing kung di wasted na buto't-balat. It was reported that we had about 769,000 children suffering from either moderate or severe wasting.

As they say, "It takes a village to raise a child." That just means that each one of us has in some way, the power and capacity to affect the lives of others and make it a little better.

The first is Senate Bill 160 or Libreng Pananghalian sa Pampublikong Paaralan Act;

The second is Senate Bill 161, otherwise known as the First 1,000 Days Act.

The first bill seeks to institutionalize the school-based feeding programs. I am confident that with the help of Senator Recto and Senator Escudero, we will be able to pass this soon, and especially with the support of my colleagues. But DepEd's feeding program is limited only to wasted and severely wasted students. We need to expand the school-feeding program to include not only severely malnourished students but ALL students.

One of our colleagues, Senator Gatchalian, has already tested this in Valenzuela with great success. So we already have a model city that has done this, there's nothing that should stop us from or make us apprehensive about taking a risk to do this.

Further, we need to enact the Libreng Pananghalian bill into law so that it will not to be subject to the whims of whoever is in power.

It has been found that these feeding programs help students perform better in school; narinig natin yung isang issue tungkol doon sa frat na kunwari daw ay pinulot nila yung bangkay sa Balut, Tondo. Balut, Tondo is prominent for that but actually, Balut, Tondo is prominent for a school with a feeding program funded by the UK where students are excelling. We should focus our attention to those types of schools. Marami rin sa kanila ay mga dancers na sa CCP ngayon dahil mayroong after-school programs.

My other measure, Senate Bill 161 or the "First 1,000 Days Act", shall ensure the nutritional well-being of pregnant women and young children. Kasi ang utak ng mga bata ay nabubuo sa tiyan pa lang ng nanay. The province of Quezon with the initiative of Gov. Suarez has successfully implemented this, and a lot of their children now are healthier because of their 1,000 days program.

Government should therefore allocate more funds for programs that promote nutritional well-being.

Now going to another issue.

I am sure you have seen or heard news regarding the many cases of minors being sexually exploited in exchange for money. Eight in 10 victims rescued from online sexual exploitation are minors, with some of them as young as two months old. Imagine, not even a year old! And just this November, Rappler reported that a woman in Leyte was arrested for allegedly abusing nine children, including her eight-year-old daughter. The woman asked for Php1,500 from her online clients in exchange for a "show," even telling her online customers that she could sexually abuse children of any age, and that the children could do whatever sex act the customer wanted "until the children cried in pain."

It is disturbing that such grave violation of human and child rights is happening in our country and is fast becoming such a pervasive and extensive problem. This needs to be addressed now.

As a sender and receiver of trafficked persons, our country ranks fourth among the nations with the most number of prostituted children. We have become one of the top 10 countries producing child pornographic materials and we are included in the top five countries where the persons being trafficked are children.

With the advent of technology and the accessibility of people to the Internet, and with easier, multi-strategy avenues to child sexual exploitation, we must be even more vigilant. In 2016, the Philippines had at least 50 million Internet users and more than 100 million mobile subscribers. Sa bagal ng Internet natin, ganyan tayo ka-active sa social media.

Findings from a 2017 study by Plan International titled "Sex Trade in the Digital Age," indicated that children are not only being put up for sale in websites. They are being engaged through social media sites like Facebook, dating apps like Tinder and Grindr, messaging apps such as Viber and Whatsapp, as well as e-commerce platforms like Craigslist. This makes cyberspace an increasingly dangerous place for children and young people as it is now being used to facilitate their exploitation.

Sex offenders are not only able to contact children online but the abuse itself can happen via live streaming on the Internet with the use of laptops and webcams. In effect, accessing technology has significantly increased the risk of children and youth being sexually exploited. At the same time, it has also made detection, prevention, and response an all the more complex matter as physical and geographic boundaries are torn down.

It is critical to note that a child's first line of defense against abuse and exploitation is his or her family. This is why it's so disheartening to receive reports that family members are not only standing idly by, allowing their children to be subjected to sexual exploitation.

There is no financial gain large enough to warrant the exploitation of our children. I have previously filed Senate Resolution No. 237 that aims to push for the investigation toward crafting remedial measures, amending existing laws and capacitating implementing agencies to make them more responsive in deterring and penalizing child pornography and prostitution. Ang ulat na nangunguna ang Pilipinas sa child pornography ay talagang nakakabahala at nakakalungkot. Higit dapat bigyan ng proteksyon ng pamahalaan ang mga batang napupuwersang magtrabaho sa ganitong kalakaran. Ang puno't dulo ng ating problema ay kahirapan pa rin. I thus urge the Senate to conduct an investigation on the proliferation of pornography involving children in the country amid measures already in place to punish perpetrators and criminalize unlawful acts. To add more funding also for cybersecurity for NBI. The dignity of a child cannot be bought; it must never be compromised. We need to show our countrymen and women, as well as the rest of the world, that a Filipino child is not for sale.

Ang isang bansa ay kasing lakas lamang ng pinakamahinang mamamayan nito. Kailangan nating balansehin ang distribusyon ng yaman at kapangyarihan sa pamamagitan ng pagpapalakas sa mga mahihina at hindi sa pang-aapi ng mga mahihina. Tungkulin ng pamahalaan na palakasin sila at itaguyod ang kanilang mga karapatan.

Layunin natin rito ay palakasin ang isang sektor na nangangailangan ng ating tulong dahil napakalapit nila sa pang-aabuso: ang mga bata.

Maraming salamat po.

Source: Senate of the Philippines

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