The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), and the Department of Justice (DOJ) forge a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the full protection of the children of the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) against any form of abuse by those individuals left behind to look after their welfare. Signatories to the MOU to be held at the DOLE office in Intramuros, Manila, are Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello lll who represents OWWA, as the agency’s Chairman of the Board of Trustees; Secretary Vitaliano N. Aguirre ll for DOJ, and Secretary Judy M. Taguiwalo for DSWD.
Under the Agreement, OWWA shall provide orientation on its programs and services, procedures and processes in availing of programs and other guidelines that may deem necessary for the swift delivery of its programs and services, Intensify child protection campaigns on violence against children especially children of OFWs; Conduct regular consultations and monitoring thru the Family Welfare Officer for the immediate clarification and resolution on issues and concerns raised by the clients; Provide relevant information on specific cases of OFWs, when necessary; assist in the distribution and dissemination of the Child Abuse and Exploitation information materials thru its OFW Family Circles (OFCs) and OFW Help Desks; Integrate/include the Child Abuse and Exploitation module prepared by the DSWD in its regular conduct of trainings and orientations for OFWs and their families; and report to DSWD, DOJ and other law enforcement authorities suspected child abuse activities and/or brought to its attention in the course of implementation of its programs and services, such as PDOS, community organizing, community meeting/orientation, family counseling, among others.
On the other hand, DOJ shall conduct preliminary investigation on child abuse and exploitation cases; rovide legal advice/assistance to the child/family; Coordinate and monitor the status of referred cases filed at the Prosecutors’ offices and in courts; Ensure child-friendly, child and gender sensitive investigations of cases as stipulated in the DOJ-CSPC Protocol for the Management of Child Victims of Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation; conduct speedy preliminary investigation/resolution of referred cases; Participate in the case conferences on cases referred by OWWA; and Participate in the convergence program of the OWWA, DSWD, LGU, and POEA.
In the meantime, DSWD shall provide assistance, shelter and protection on the children of OFWs who are victims of child abuse and exploitation in coordination with the LGUs; coordinate with the agencies covered by this MOU regarding the process of reporting complaints and assistance as well as undertake case management of all cases referred by OWWA and provide status report of such; Participate in the prevention campaign against Child Abuse and Exploitation and enter in a convergence with OWWA, DOLE, LGU, DOJ, AFI; Make available on request resource speakers on Child Abuse and Exploitation; provide information materials on the campaign against Child Abuse and Exploitation such as brochures, pamphlets, posters as well as copies of recent child abuse laws and regulation for distribution in their respective constituencies; Provide other forms of assistance, pursuant to its mandate under Executive Order No. 221 and Executive Order No. 1 that define the mandate, roles, powers and functions of the DSWD and its implementing Rules and Regulations, and for other purposes, as may be requested; Take the lead in the conduct of psycho-social interventions/referrals and case conferences on cases referred by OWWA; and integrate issues and concerns of children of OFWs in the Family Development Sessions (FDs) and Parenting Effectiveness Sessions (PES) modules.
The MOU complements Republic Act No. 7610, “An Act Providing Stronger Deterrence and Special Protection Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination”, and Republic Act No. 9262, “An Act on Violence Against Women and their Children” (VAWC).
The government is quite alarmed by the national baseline study on violence against children initiated by the Council for the Welfare of Children and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which states that migration is one of the reasons of physical, sexual, or psychological violence to children citing the following: Two (2) out of three (3) children reported to have experienced any form of physical violence; one (1) out of four (4) children reported to have suffered from any form of sexual violence; and three (3) out of five (5) children reported to experience peer violence or bullying.
Further, tall tale reports of children of OFWs, notably the heart wrenching case of the death of the two-year-old boy, son of an OFW in Hong Kong, who succumbed to death due to cruelty inflicted on him by no less than his mother’s trusted relatives disguised as ‘caretakers’.
“The bolt-in of the three government agencies, DOJ, DSWD, and OWWA, to bolster the well-being of the children of OFWs serves as a balancing act between the desire of OFW parents to provide the needs of their children by working abroad on one hand, and to ensure that their children are in the `safe hands’ of the people they have chosen to look after the well-being of their loved ones. Hopefully, thru this MOU among our partners, we will be able to realize a zero-victim/casualty of any form of abuse to children of OFWs. After all, we do now wish to see a double-whammy situation; an absent parent and an abused child, ”, OWWA Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac said.