THE House committee on welfare of children has formed a technical working group (TWG) to harmonize the final version of more than a dozen bills seeking to establish an “Alternative Child Care Code” and simplify the process of adopting abandoned or neglected children in the country.
During a virtual hearing via Zoom, Tingog party-list Rep. Yedda Marie K. Romualdez, panel chairperson, underscored the importance to approve a consolidated bill on “Alternative Child Care Code” to address the plight of more than 1.8 million abandoned children who are living in extreme poverty, natural disasters or of armed conflicts.
“As a result, these children have been placed under institutional care to ensure their growth and well-being. While these institutions have done so much with limited resources to care for these children, the fact remains that they cannot replace the warmth and affection that a family could provide,” Romualdez said in her sponsorship speech for her House Bill (HB) No. 5581 or “An Act Codifying the Alternative Child Care Laws and Providing Funds Therefore.”
“With the intention of providing abandoned and neglected children a second chance at having the family care and love that they deserve, this bill seeks to harmonize our existing laws involving the adoption of children, including, a simplified, accessible and streamlined procedure for adoption, foster care and other modes of alternative child care,” said Romualdez, wife of House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez.
Rep. Yedda’s measure seeks to establish a one-stop agency called the National Authority for Child Care (NACC) for the adoption of children, and to make the adoption process administrative in nature. Misamis Occidental Rep. Diego “Nonoy” Ty, who presided over the hearing to give way to the sponsorship of Romualdez of her HB 5581, granted the motion of Bukidnon Rep. Ma. Lourdes Acosta-Alba to create a TWG tasked to create a substitute version of “Alternative Child Care Code”.
“We are all in agreement that this long-overdue legislation is quite urgent. Actually, we filed this bill in the 17th Congress, hanggang TWG lang umabot. Hopefully, this time it will go all the way,” said Acosta-Alba.
Nueva Ecija Rep. Rosanna “Ria” Vergara accepted the request for her to head the TWG on ACC bills.
“It is an honor to chair this TWG. We will do our best to get this bill reviewed thoroughly, and hopefully, get it to second reading and passed in this 18th Congress,” said Vergara.
Quezon City Rep. Precious Castelo and Bataan Rep. Geraldine Roman also cited the need for Congress to address the country’s harsh, expensive, long, and emotionally draining adoption bureaucracy.
“As we all know, it is very difficult to legally adopt here in the Philippines because of the lengthy process involved in litigating the adoption case. Thus, it is the intent of this bill, among others, to make adoption more accessible to aspiring adoptive parents by making the adoption procedure administrative in nature,” explained Castelo, who filed HB 6160. Similarly with Romualdez’s measure, Castelo’s HB 6160 seeks to create the NACC in a bid to improve and expedite the process of all modes of alternative child care.
The NACC, which shall be an attached agency of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), is tasked to formulate and develop policies on pre-adoption, adoption, inter-country adoption, foster care, guardianship leading to adoption, and other alternative child care policies, Castelo said.
For her part, Roman asked her colleagues to rally behind the passage of her HB 6265 to address the “tedious, expensive, extremely bureaucratic” adoption process as coined by her Spanish couple-friend who adopted two Filipino children.
“The entire process took more than two years and this was with the intervention of my late father, former Rep. Tony Roman. Now these two kids are in their early twenties, finishing their college degrees in Spain,” said Roman.
“The requirements, they said, seemed arbitrary and were not systematically conveyed to them. The fees would include tips and other amounts, which they thought were bribes to fast-track the process.
This is inadmissible. The process of adoption is, for the State, the fulfillment of its mandate. For government employees and officials, adoption cannot be a money-making venture. This is the objective of HB 6265,” the House leader said.
Earlier, the Romualdez panel approved, subject to amendments, HB (HB) 3472 or the proposed Foundling Welfare Act that is principally authored by Ang Probinsyano party-list Rep. Ronnie Ong.
HB 3472 is aimed at promoting the rights of abandoned children with unknown parents and declaring them as natural-born Filipino citizens.
The filing of the bill was an offshoot of the absence of a legal framework that fully recognizes the foundlings as bonafide Filipino citizens.