The new law will augur well down the road for young Filipinos. POPCOM FILE PHOTO

(07 January 2022) The Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) has commended President Rodrigo Roa Duterte for formalizing the landmark passage of Republic Act 11596, otherwise known as “An Act Prohibiting the Practice of Child Marriage,” which criminalizes the union of an adult with a minor.

POPCOM has long advocated for the strong protection of Filipino children, being one of the most vulnerable sectors of society. During a meeting on the State of the World Population in 2019, the commission acknowledged that Filipino girls in particular are currently subjected to another kind of “pandemic” in the form of unplanned and unintended pregnancies due to abuse, early marriage and cohabitation with adult males, all of which may be deterred by this new law. 

In 2019, former socioeconomic planning secretary Ernesto Pernia, chair of POPCOM’s board of commissioners, declared teenage pregnancy as a “national social emergency,” the severity of which has reached the halls of legislators, and up to the executive branch of the government.

“We have likewise noted that marriages and unions involving minor children diminish the bodily autonomy of girls, and are incompatible with basic human rights as enshrined in Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the Philippines signed in 1948,” Undersecretary Juan A. Perez III pointed out. 

POPCOM’s executive director also believes that marriages involving minors will also expose them to further unintended pregnancies, lead them to produce families and unions that are ill-prepared to face the challenges of rearing children, and lock them into the vicious cycle of intergenerational poverty.

“With the enactment of RA 11596, we are confident our Filipino children are better protected from abuse and exploitation; hence, enabling them to achieve their aspirations and potential as future leaders of our nation, and where hopes of our country’s brighter tomorrow rest upon,” said the POPCOM chief.

He stated further that RA 11596 is a strategic policy measure supportive of the Social Protection Program for Adolescent Mothers and their Children (SPPAMC), which POPCOM and the Department of Social Welfare and Development are mandated to develop and implement under the 2021 and 2022 General Appropriations Act.  The SPPAMC is now being implemented on a pilot basis to protect adolescent mothers from the risks and vulnerabilities of early pregnancies. #

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