Editorial: Empowering BCPCs

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Sunday, February 2, 2014


ACTIVATE more than the barangay to protect children.

An official of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) called for the activation of Barangay Councils for the Protection of Children (BCPCs) to flush out those who exploit children and other minors.

In a Jan. 30 article, Justin K. Vestil of Sun.Star Cebu reported that DSWD children’s welfare specialist Emma K. Patalinghug urged barangays to use the BCPCs as watchdogs for exposing or preventing crimes committed against minors, such as cyberpornography and cybersex.

As frontliners, the BCPCs have advantages over other government officials. They can conduct regular surveillance and tap other residents for information about suspicious illegal activity. Increased vigilance, aggressiveness and community action result in crimes against children being reported, victims rescued and other interventions made.

However, as local residents, BCPC members run into a conflict of interest when they or their relations are involved in the crimes they are supposed to prevent.

Thus, to be a genuine guardian and advocate for children and youths, the BCPC must be its first convert.

Networking

Yet, in many barangays, the BCPC exists in name only.

Article 87 of Presidential Decree (PD) 603 (Child and Youth Welfare Code) mandates the creation of a local council for the “survival, development, protection and participation” of children and youth in the community.

However, given the rise of violations against minors’ rights, many barangay officials must be reoriented and retrained to identify and appreciate the importance of the Children Development Plan.

The integration of this plan into the Barangay Development Plan is necessary for budget allocation and implementation of barangay-led initiatives to bring about the “survival, development, protection and participation” of children and youth.

Yet, given the networks and resources sustaining cybersex operations and human trafficking, BCPCs need also to be linked to a support system of city governments, line agencies and nongovernment organizations (NGOs) that can counter the forces exploiting minors, as well as help victims recover and move on.

Lessons

According to Patalinghug, it is not only Cordova that needs to monitor in light of reports of home-based cybersex operations. All barangays must be vigilant in protecting children and youths, given the lure of profits, easy access to technology, the dubious safety of homes, and the difficulty of exposing perpetrators hiding in private abodes.

Much can be learned from Bantay Banay, a nationally and internationally recognized program that institutionalized the family and community watch, which mainstreamed gender and development in governance.

When Lihok Pilipina organized Bantay Banay in 1992, gender and domestic violence affected six out of 10 women in Cebu City. According to a paper uploaded on www.acl.ac.uk, Lihok Pilipina and other stakeholders rescued domestic violence from being an invisible crime—brushed off as “family trouble” by authorities who ignored battered women and even returned them to their partners, who continued to batter them—by using this four-pronged strategy:

Getting the community involved. In organizing communities, Bantay Banay discussed “family trouble” with women initially, later with men. Support groups were formed to discuss laws on the family code, abuse and legal assistance. The discussions taught stakeholders that the victims did not want to go to lawyers; they just wanted the violence to stop. At the community level, the Bantay Banay learning was that: “The community can stop actual violence, call the police, make referrals, and do mediation efforts that are sustainable at their level.”

Interagency collaboration was needed for many services that the community could not provide: medical-legal check-up, mediation, recording of the incident in the blotter, immediate shelter for victims and post-crisis intervention. Aside from community groups and NGOs, other crucial participants are the police, medical practitioners, city governments and line agencies. Gender sensitivity trainings, sharing and feedbacking, and monitoring of referrals were carried out through the interagency networks.

The coming out of more victims helped make gender and domestic violence an issue that was not just personal and family-related. Violence against women (VAW) became an issue of governance.

This mainstreaming resulted in city governments passing a Gender and Development Code and allocating resources for programs and activities that advocated gender sensitivity, rescued victims and reoriented batterers.

From barangays to all stakeholders, community awareness and action are crucial for uprooting crimes against children and youths.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 03, 2014.

Opinion

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