The children’s code is a statutory code of practice designed to protect children from any forms of abuse, exploitation, neglect, or situations that may put their safety, wellbeing, and welfare at risk. As children are a vital sector of any province or country, the children’s code is an essential child protection policy that is needed to be kept relevant in accordance with the call of the times.

As even stated by world agencies that children are the ones taking the heaviest toll from current educational, societal, and economical problems, the younger generation today face a broad array of challenges that greatly affect their physical and mental health, learning capabilities, and overall wellbeing. Brought by the COVID19 pandemic which no country was prepared for, consequences of the protocols necessary to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus now make our children more than ever vulnerable to hunger, dropping out of school, neglect, and exploitation. Addressing these issues head-on while also commemorating the National Children’s Month, Davao de Oro Governor Jayvee Tyron Uy delivered his local state of the children report last November 27, 2020, live via Zoom on the province’s official Facebook page.

The report emphasized the Provincial Local Government Unit (PLGU) of Davao de Oro’s efforts to secure the protection of children’s rights amidst difficulties presented by the said pandemic. Among the interventions that were discussed during the Governor’s report were recent innovations such as the Mobile Kusina, TVSkwela, and Free Wi-Fi for All Program. Especially highlighted was the Mobile Kusina, a modification of the province’s Bayanihan para sa Kalusugan-Kusina ng Kalinga Program which has been recognized nationwide. Feeding a total of 16, 087 children in low-income settlements throughout the imposition of the Enhanced Community Quarantine in April this year, the program was featured in a Rappler article which stated that aside from free lunch meals, Mobile Kusina also supplied much-needed hope in these dark times.

Governor Tyron Uy’s speech ended with a promise that Davao de Oro, in all situations and circumstances, will continue to be a place of, for, and by children, be it in the best of times or the worst of crises.

With respect to the need to address children’s current struggles on a wider scale, the event’s second half featured a discussion with guests Vice Governor Maria Carmen Zamora, Board Member Marie Jude Fuentes-Lopoz, Bhong Binondo of the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC), Ms. Princess Jean Rosette, the child representative of the Provincial Council on the Protection and Welfare of Children (PCPC), and hosts Allin Joy Camile and Arianne Dacalos from the Provincial Governor’s Office, who joined the Governor in the live stream.                                         

Underscored during the discussion was the urgency to revise the province’s existing children’s code. Atty. Lopoz stated, “The children’s code that we have today was made 11 years ago, and times are very different now.”

Atty. Lopoz further dwelled on the fact that the existing children’s code still focused on issues that concerned a different time, while children today are much exposed to the overwhelming information source that is the internet, and the games and applications that they are now accustomed to which may cause them harm or mental disturbances without proper guidance and monitoring.

Led by Atty. Lopoz herself, the revised children’s code will be tackling relevant issues and more, with Atty. Lopoz and VG Maricar Zamora’s guarantee that its revision will be covering all issues that put our children at risk today.

CWC representative, Mr. Binondo, also gave reports on the province’s political posture with regard to child protection. He noted during the discussion that PLGU-Davao de Oro and its constituent 11 Municipal Local Government Units (MLGU) closely coordinate with one another to ensure the maintenance of a child friendly local governance. “Buhi ang political will ng gobyerno para sa mga bata.” (The government’s political will for the children is alive.) Mr. Binondo quipped.  This fact manifested in the municipality of Monkayo, which received the title of the most child friendly LGU in the entire Davao region.

Native to the mentioned municipality, 15 year old PCPC child representative Princess Jean Rosette also shared a short word on the struggles that students face today in relation to distance learning. In her own words, Ms. Rosette explained that perhaps one of the greatest obstacles that hamper children’s learning is the very absence of their teachers and peers. Without social support and close guidance from their teachers, children today have a hard time processing their lessons. This may also leave a negative impact on their mental wellness.

Still, Ms. Rosette ended with a positive note stating that children can and are even starting to adapt and cope up with these changes; and that with distance learning, the younger generation can start to learn self-reliance and independence in the early stages of their youth.

Governor Tyron Uy praised Ms. Rosette for her determination and concrete positivity to continue with her studies even through current difficulties. He further promised that the provincial government will be doing its best to make sure that education remains accessible to the children of Davao de Oro.

With this, VG Maricar Zamora also claimed that the Provincial Health Office shall soon set up systems and programs that are dedicated to mental health awareness not just for the children, but also their parents. Parents, too, need social and mental support these days, as their very own strength and mental health flow to their children as well. Briefly mentioned during the talk was the 1DdO Helpline system, Davao de Oro’s one-stop hotline directory which features a suicide prevention hotline.

The report finally ended with Governor Tyron Uy leading the Panatang Makabata oath, solidifying the Provincial Government of Davao de Oro’s full commitment to the welfare and wellbeing of its children. The revision of the province’s local children’s code along with the continuation and further strengthening of its existing child friendly programs and future additions shall be the manifestation of this will.

The younger generation now more than ever needs to be guided and protected; and their health, rights, and welfare will always be a core priority of the province of Davao de Oro.

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