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Statement of H.E. President Fidel V. Ramos Enactment into Laws of Republic Act No. 8369 – "Establishing child and family Courts and Amends BP Bilang 129," Republic Act No. 8370 – the "National Children's Television Act of 1997" and Ratification of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 138 which Sets the Minimum Age for Working Children Ceremonial Hall, Malacañang, Manila 1030H 28 October 1997

We take important steps towards the full attainment of our Social Reform Agenda (SRA) with these two bills we are signing into law today, and the senate's ratification of the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention NO. 138.

With these measures, we also hope to inculcate in our children that government leaves no stone unturned in its pursuit of a just and humane Filipino society and of the nation's future.

By these new measures, we further empower a basic but sometimes neglected sector of our society. We also ensure a brighter future for the nation by improving present conditions for the Filipino child.

First, we have R.A. 8369 or the "Child and Family Courts Act" establishing special courts to exclusively handle criminal and civil cases involving children and/or family relations.

Our constitution has provided that the state should protect the rights and promote the welfare of our children. On that commitment, this law has been enacted to ensure that speedy justice is given to Filipino children whenever conditions of neglect, abuse, exploitation or others prejudicial to their development exist. Likewise, it promotes and protects our children's rights for their physical, moral, spiritual and intellectual well-being even as it affirms our stand that the family is our basic social unit.

This legislative reform demonstrates our continuing concern over the plight of children involved in court suits. The harsh judicial process that these children have to endure – not to mention the equally harsh punishment meted out to juvenile delinquents – leave indelible scars that bear on these children's future.

The special courts created by R.A. 8369 address concerns about speeding up justice for this vulnerable sector, giving emphasis on reform and social responsibility over punishment, suspending sentences for juvenile offenders and appointing judges specially trained for domestic and children's cases.

We regard with alarm the increasing number of domestic disagreements and even violence in the family that have reached our courts. While the state takes more moves to create conditions that are more conducive to family harmony, we rejoice today that justice can be brought more swiftly to our children.

The passage of this law not only shows adherence to all U.N. Conventions regarding children but also upholds our belief that children have basic rights, including the right to speedy justice and the right to receive corrective rather than punitive action in view of their tender age. We envision the family courts to adopt a unique form of adjudication for youth offenders and family altercations through a non-adversarial manner that will treat minors not as aggressors but as victims who need rehabilitation and care.

Complementary to our efforts to create an environment appropriate for the emotional, intellectual and spiritual growth of our children, we sign into law R.A. 8370 or the "National Children's Television Act."

At the Asian Summit on Child Rights and the Media in July of last year, we made a firm commitment to help provide Asian children with a positive media setting. With the Children's Television Act of 1997, we fulfill a major part of this commitment.

Last year, the children presented me with a media "wish list" which this landmark law addresses. I take pleasure in informing the children in this audience and elsewhere in our beloved country that your legislators and your president have listened to you.

This law provides a mechanism for monitoring the content of all television programs and advertisements through the creation of the National Council for Children's Television (NCCT) and a corresponding advisory committee that will work together to make policies for children's broadcast programs and make sure that they are implemented correctly.

The NCCT is a multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral body that will coordinate national efforts to create a truly child-friendly and sensitive media culture, including the establishment of incentives for the development of high-quality Filipino programmes for our children.

Moreover, R.A. 8370 promotes media education through schools, through media itself and through families and communities and encourages children to take the initiative in letting media know what they want and expect from the industry. It therefore ensures that their rights are not transgressed due to their improper exposure to TV violence, crime and other immoral acts.

To you, children, this will mean that there will be more enjoyable tv programmes for you where you can also learn lessons, positive values and skills to help you become responsible filipinos. We, your elders, want to make sure that in your time you will grow up as God-, country-, society-, family- and environment-loving citizens.

Upholding ILO Convention 138
We also celebrate today the Senate's ratification, last october 7, 1997, of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 138 regarding the minimum age for children to work, through Senate Resolution 104. With the Senate ratification of ILO's most recent commitment regarding child labour, the Philippines earns another first in the international community: we are the first country in the Asia-Pacific to have ratified this convention.

ILO Convention No. 138 is not only an important guideline but also a flexible instrument as it considers the various levels of economic and social development of its country-signatories. Thus, each country ratifying it is expected to draw up a national policy to effectively abolish child labour and raise the minimum age of employment or work in accordance with that country's economic and social development.

The phenomenon of child labour exists in every country in various degrees. In our country, our children's rights — including the protection against child abuse, exploitation, discrimination and employment before reaching a certain age — are contained in the blueprint Philippine Plan of Action for Children (PPAC).

In balancing our labour needs and development goals with our duty to protect our children, we have determined that our children may be admitted into the labour force at age 15. Senate Resolution 104 reconfirms this age. This should signal to foreign and local investors that we do not tolerate child labour and will vigorously fight this global evil.

Additionally, I mention the happy coincidence of our celebrating the Senate's concurrence on the same day that the Oslo International Conference on Child Labour starts. I would also like to especially acknowledge the tripartite sector and the non-governmental organizations who have worked hard for this immediate ratification.

A while ago, we heard our children express their views about the kind of society they want to live in. We are glad to hear them out and even more glad to assure them that we want nothing but the best for them. government, through its three branches — the executive, the legislative and the judiciary — will continue to work hard to ensure that our children's future is secure.

Once again, I thank all our legislators, led by Senate President Ernesto Maceda and Speaker of the House Jose de Venecia, and all the authors, co-authors, sponsors, co-sponsors, committee chairmen and bicameral committee conferees for these laws. We will implement them as effectively and as soon as possible, for our children cannot wait.

Maraming salamat at mabuhay ang ating kabataan!

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