It is good to see the Philippine Government push social legislation such as the divorce, health and reproduction, and child abuse bills. It is the sign of a refined sense of caretaking that would appear to reside outside the vision of the Catholic Church. And an awareness that, on occasion, the State must insert itself to protect its citizens from themselves.
Indeed, the concept of nationhood is just that, an agreement that individuals are better off banded together following rules aimed at preserving the well-being of the collective.
The House of Representatives has passed a piece of legislation called “An Act Promoting Positive and Non-violent Discipline of Children” . This is a fine bill with good intentions, but I wonder if it will fall into the trash heap of well-intended regulations that are emasculated because they are not enforced. Who will enforce this one? Certainly not the courts, which are jammed full to bursting with backlogged cases. I suppose some agency of the government. I wonder what the penalties will be? A slap on the wrist?
The United Nations defines corporal punishment of a child as any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light.
By definition, I have to stop using my technique of disciplining my child by flicking him on the wrist for persistent bad behavior, because it would be illegal. I use the technique because it allows the child to associated bad behavior with bad outcomes. Immediately and clearly. It avoids what might be the soft, unknown kind of psychological abuse caused by relegating a child to the corner for a "time out". A "time out" causes no physical pain, but the kid can concoct all kinds of angers and excuses and villains, other than himself, whilst parked on a stool for five minutes.
- Charging exam fees, incidental fees, and requiring costly uniforms, thus consigning the poorest citizens of the land to an eternal cycle of no education, no job, no money. No education for their own kids. Talk about abusive.
- Permitting parents who overbirth to consume the State's resources, resulting in poor education for the children of parents who are not so demanding on the government's wealth. That is roundabout unfair, and abusive.
- Forcing kids to learn in schools with inadequate facilities and mediocre teachers, effectively banning kids from being the best that they can be. This is a part of the cycle imposed by overbirthing and lousy tax policy.
A flick on the wrist provides all the agony of a mosquito bite. The cynical me would argue for a plank in the law outlawing mosquitoes, too. For comprehensive protection of the child. But I told the cynical me to sit down and shut up.
But it is this notion of "soft abuse", like consigning the child to a time out, that I want to pursue.
It struck me during my primary thinking time, which is about 2 o'clock in the morning, that the Philippine educational system operates on a different construct than the American system.
In the US, it is a crime for parents to keep kids out of school, which is free. In the Philippines, parents have to pay fees to get their kids to go to school.
The US follows what I suppose could be termed a socialistic model, with the State mandating education for the child, and seeing lack thereof as abusive. Truancy officers roam the streets in some communities looking for kids that are not in school. Parents are held to account.
The Philippines follows the royal model, with the State holding education as a prize to be gifted if the parents pay money to the State. No one cares if kids are on the streets, or, alternatively, out working the seas to find fish.
I consider the withholding of education to be infinitely more abusive than a flick on the wrist. It does not come and go. It stays . . . for a lifetime.
The Philippine State permits child abuse in three ways:
So, although I support the good intentions of this new piece of legislation, I wish Philippine congressional leaders would come to grips with how abusive it is to withhold education from a child.
The damages are severe and they are physical: underdeveloped brains.
The hurt is lifelong.
There is no healing process available; a missed opportunity is gone forever.