DEPARTMENT of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos Jr. has urged local government units (LGUs) to strengthen their programs and policies on violence against women and children (VAWC) and solo parents.

Abalos said the protection of women and children, as well as of solo parents are among the priorities of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s administration.

He said LGUs must intensify their campaign on VAWC down to the communities and strictly ensure that their mandate on the protection of women and children is executed accordingly.

“With the rise in VAWC incidents during the pandemic, barangays and local government units must strengthen protective programs, counseling and support services for women who are victims of abuse and solo parents alike because they run to you [LGUs] first when they have concerns and problems,” he said.

From January to July 2022, a total of 6,383 VAW cases were reported to the Philippine National Police (PNP) Women and Children Protection Center while 9,677 cases of violence against children were tallied in the same period.

LGUs are mandated to ensure the protection of VAWC victims under Republic Act 9262, including the filing of protection orders before their respective social workers.

The law also directs LGUs to lead education and information campaigns on violence, particularly toward educating the public on its social impacts, and ensuring sustained education and training of officers and personnel on the prevention of violence against women and their children.

For its part, barangay officials and law enforcers are tasked to respond immediately to a call for help or assistance and to ensure the safety of a victim at all cost.

Abalos noted that the enhanced 911 hotline now includes VAWC and other Gender-Based Violence (GBV) emergency response and psychological support, making it more accessible to those who need it.

For solo parents, the secretary prodded for the effective implementation of the Expanded Solo Parents Welfare Act, or Republic Act (RA) 11861, to grant additional benefits to solo parents.

The law also expands the definition of solo parent to include spouses or any family members of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) or guardians of the OFW’s child, provided that the OFW “belongs to the low/semi-skilled category and is away from the Philippines for an uninterrupted period of 12 months.”

“Our LGUs have a role to play in implementing this law and we will ensure that they will coordinate with the concerned agencies to fast-track its enforcement and swiftly deliver help to our solo parents nationwide,” said Abalos.

Among the benefits of the law are the P1,000 monthly cash subsidy for solo parents earning minimum wage and below; a 10 percent discount and exemption from value-added tax on baby basic needs such as milk, diaper and vitamins; automatic coverage under PhilHealth’s National Health Insurance Program with premium contributions shouldered by the government; and prioritization of solo parents, mothers in re-entering the workforce and their children in apprenticeships, scholarships, livelihood training and other poverty alleviation programs of the government and low-cost housing. (SunStar Philippines)