For swift plenary approval by House Committee on Welfare of Children
THE House Committee on Welfare of Children on Tuesday endorsed for swift plenary approval the proposed “Foundling Welfare Act” aimed at promoting the rights of abandoned children with unknown parents and declaring them as natural-born Filipino citizens.
Ang Probinsyano party-list Rep. Ronnie Ong
In a virtual hearing via Zoom, Tingog party-list Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez, panel chairperson, said her committee approved the committee report on the substitute measure for the proposed Foundling Welfare Act principally authored by Ang Probinsyano party-list Rep. Ronnie Ong.
“With the approval of the Committee Report, this bill will be forwarded to the plenary. I look forward to your continued support during the plenary deliberations – so that with all our efforts together, a lasting solution to foundling welfare may soon be realized,” Romualdez, wife of House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, told the panel.
“I am deeply grateful for the support that this bill has been receiving and hopeful that this will provide the recognition and protection of all foundlings in the country,” added Romualdez.
“This proposed measure has been thoroughly considered with the kind assistance and valuable inputs from our resource persons as well as the members of the Committee,” Romualdez said. “We will do our best to ensure the immediate approval of the bill in the House of Representatives. We are committed to promote and protect the rights of abandoned children.”
The filing of the bill was an offshoot of the absence of a legal framework that fully recognizes foundlings as bonafide Filipino citizens, said Romualdez.
In defending his measure, Ong underscored the importance to pass the proposed Foundling Welfare Act that originated from his House Bill (HB) 3472, which primarily aims to promote the rights of foundlings and to be recognized as natural born citizens.
He lamented that present laws require children whose parentage are unknown to present physical proof of blood relation to a Filipino parent before he or she is considered a natural-born citizen.
These legal barriers, Ong said placed foundlings at a disadvantageous position and tremendously disenfranchised them, tantamount to denying their full rights bestowed upon all Filipino children.
Under the proposed law, foundlings shall be recognized as natural-born citizens of the Philippines, without need of perfection or any further act, and shall automatically be accorded such rights and protection as those belonging to such class of citizens.
These include foundlings who are committed to orphanage, and charitable or government institutions or those who have undergone or are undergoing adoption proceedings, according to the bill.
The measure provides that such natural-born status of the child or infant shall not be impugned in any proceeding all the days of his or her life unless substantial proof of foreign parentage is shown.
Such status shall not also be affected by the fact that the birth certificate of the child is simulated or that there was an absence of a legal adoption process, it said.
The bill tasks the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) or any of its duly licensed institution or nongovernment organization (NGO) to conduct a proactive and diligent search and inquiry into the facts of birth and parentage of the child or infant, within 15 days after commitment or submission of foundling report by the finder or other concerned person, unless more time is needed in view of significant developments.
Under the proposed law, the penalty of arresto mayor (or at least six years of imprisonment) to prision correccional (or at least six months) shall be imposed on any person using the status of the child or person as foundling as a derogatory remark or to cause dishonor to the child or person as a second-class citizen.
While, a fine ranging from P200,000 to P1 million or imprisonment of not less than one month but not more than one year, at the discretion of the court, shall be imposed on any individual discriminating against foundlings in terms of education, scholarship, practice of profession, etc., delaying the delivery of services due to them or requiring them to prove their parentage before they can exercise their rights as natural-born citizens.
The penalty of prision correccional to prision mayor shall be imposed on any private individual involved in the falsification of the registration of the supposed foundling, including the documents required therefor, the bill provides.
Any public officer involved shall be punished by the penalty next higher in degree, it said.
The penalty of imprisonment of not less than six months but not more than five years shall be imposed on the finder, DSWD or NGO staff, police officers, city, municipal and barangay officers, health employees, hospital staff and any other concerned person refusing, delaying or obstructing the conduct of search and inquiry into the facts of birth and parentage of the abandoned child or infant.
A fine of P1 million to P5 million, or imprisonment of not less than three months but not more than two years, at the discretion of the court, shall be imposed on any person initiating a complaint found to be for the purpose of harassing, annoying, vexing, persecuting or injuring the foundling especially in his or her exercise of rights due to natural-born citizens, the bill provides.