GENERAL SANTOS CITY -- Have you ever experienced being punished physically -- including getting spanked, paddled, not given food, and you were grounded by your own parents or guardians for not following their instructions or as punishment as retribution for committing an offense?

Then you've been a victim of corporal punishment.

Plan International, a non-government organization that advocates collective action to promote non-violent and Protective Society for Children projects, said that children aged below 18 years of age are common victims of corporal punishment.

"Children are vulnerable to abuses and other kinds of exploitation even from their own household. Due to their physical and psychological immaturity, they need safeguards. That's why we’re here for them," said Jayson Lozano, project manager of Plan International for Mindanao.

"These children needs our care, protection, and treatment," added Lozano during the Plan International-spearheaded three-day regional training on Child Protection and Child-Sensitive participated by both members of the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) and Kapisananng Broadcasters ngPilipinas (KBP) held last June 18 to 20 at the Sun City Suites here.

Common victims of corporal punishments are children in conflict with law (CILC), abandoned, physically abused, and sexually abused children, although children with normal lives are likewise victims.

Atty. Rudolph Steve Juralbal, legal counsel of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas, said that as of 2015, there are 86 laws that protect the rights of children here in the Philippines.

Some of the policies passed include the Republic Act 7610, or otherwise known as the "Special Protection of Children against Child Abuse," Revised Penal Code (RPC) RA 3815, the Child and Youth Welfare Code (PD 603), and the Family Code of the Philippines (Executive Order 209).

In the latest survey of Pulse Asia Survey in 2011, the results showed that the corporal punishment is still practiced as a form of discipline.

Of this, 67 percent of parents use physical means to discipline their children and 83 percent of those parents also experienced corporal punishment when they were still children, while 41 percent of the parents said they will support a law that pushes for the prohibition of corporal punishment while 21 percent were undecided.

Zolcarnin Palao, project officer of Plan International, said that enforcing corporal punishment leaves negative effects on the children including the creation of fear, confusion, resentment, and anger.

"It also lowers their self-esteem, influence them with violence, obstructs child's cognitive functioning, and prevents them from developing moral values and empathy," Palao said in the vernacular.

Palao, however, mentioned that there are guiding principles to enforce positive discipline among the children.

"Encourage them to think and formulate their own opinions, you also need to talk them with rules and regulation, and even expectations. Communication between the parents and children is the only way for this issue to be resolved," he added.

On the last day of the workshop, the participants went to Alabel town in Sarangani to interact with 30 advocates of Positive Discipline, the opposite of corporal punishment.

Bernadita Marcosa, 46, a barangay council staff and a mother of two boys, also admitted that she also experience corporal punishment when she was still a child but that she swore that she will not do the same to her children; only to occasionally catch herself doing the same.

"Isulod ko ug sako sa akong parents ug usahay dili pa kaon. Siguro wala pa nakabalo akong parents ato na corporal punishment na diay to ug mali na to (I’d be placed in a sack, I’d be made to do without a meal. Maybe because during the time of my parents, that was how children were disciplined and they didn’t know anything about corporal punishment)," Marcosa said.

Marcosa, who started attending seminars on Positive Discipline last August 2014, said she understood about positive discipline only after these. Plan International introduced them to the adverse effects of corporal punishment in their barangay, Spring, after their barangay was identified as among the areas where corporal punishment prevails.

"This a big challenge to us parents to enforce positive discipline not only inside our household but also to the community as well," Marcosa said in the vernacular.

Nicole, 12, a student at Alabel National High School (ANHS) and one of the youngest members of the Youth for Children Advocates (YFCA), said it needs the collective efforts of both children and parents to end corporal punishment.

"Kay kung dili pud pabadlong ang mga anak, dili man pud na masuko ang atong ginikanan (Because if children were not doing something bad, our parents will not get angry at us)," she said.

She, meanwhile, thanked the contribution of Plan International in waking up the minds of the residents about positive discipline.

"We need to stop this tradition of corporal punishment so that the next generation will not experience this," Nicole said.

Myka, also a member of YFCA, said that although she did not experience corporal punishment, she is advocating positive discipline because she is aware that her friends are going through these harsh methods of disciplining.

"I encourage all the youth to take part in this advocacy because all of us have a responsibility. We need to work together to break this problem," she added.

Luisa Cubog, Civic Society Organization (CSO) member who's also advocating Positive Discipline, admits that such advocacy is not easy since many are fixed on their ways.

"Ang lisod pud sa uban kay dili magpatabang. Masuko kung mag-apil-apil ka sa ilaha. Basta kung maingnan nako sila na mali sila sa ilang ginabuhat, naa na sa ilaha kung sundon nila or ipadayon. Basta nagduol nako (Others do not welcome our intervention. They’d get angry at us and tell us not to meddle. But we tell them about the evils of corporal punishment it’s up to them if they will listen or not),” she said.

Palao, for his part, said they are optimistic about their campaign for positive discipline.

"We're really thankful for their support (CSO, Parent Support Group, YFCA) but this is just the start. Our objective here is to create an environment where children are safe from abuse and exploitation especially for the next generations," he said.