Philippines’ Duterte backs smacking kids, vetoes ban

A draft law that would have made it illegal for parents to smack their children in the Philippines has been vetoed by President Rodrigo Duterte. (File/AFP)
Updated 28 February 2019
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Philippines’ Duterte backs smacking kids, vetoes ban

  • The bill would have banned physical, humiliating, or degrading acts of punishment or discipline by parents or teachers on children
  • It also called for repeat offenders to undergo anger management counselling

MANILA: A draft law that would have made it illegal for parents to smack their children in the Philippines has been vetoed by President Rodrigo Duterte, the presidential palace said Thursday.
The bill would have banned physical, humiliating, or degrading acts of punishment or discipline by parents or teachers on children.
It also called for repeat offenders to undergo anger management counselling.
“I am aware that there is a growing trend, prevalent in Western nations, that sees all forms of corporal punishment as an outdated form of disciplining children,” Duterte told Congress, explaining why he would not sign it into law.
“I strongly believe that we should resist this trend,” he said in a statement Thursday, adding he believed parents should be able to impose corporal punishment.
The president has also called for the age of criminal liability — currently 15 years old — to be lowered, to give more teeth to a narcotics crackdown that has claimed the lives of more than 5,000 drug suspects.
Richard Dy, spokesman for the Child Rights Network, told AFP rights groups were surprised at Duterte’s veto, and said his organization will call on Congress to vote to override the veto so it becomes law.
Dy said three in five Filipino children are victims of psychological and physical violence, and “more than half of these are happening at home.”
“There is a cultural norm in the Philippines that we can hit children in order to discipline them. That’s what we wanted changed with this bill,” Dy said.
Studies have shown that corporal punishment of children could lead to depression, suicide, or turn victims into child-smackers themselves when they grow up, Dy added.
Duterte has said publicly that as a child his mother would hit him “with whatever she could grab” and make him kneel in front of the altar with his arms spread like those of Jesus Christ nailed to the cross as punishment.
Dy said the bill took more than 10 years to pass in the House of Representatives and the Senate, with majority approval secured after its sponsors agreed to drop an early provision that would have imposed jail terms for offenders.
Last month parliament passed a controversial bill lowering the minimum age of criminal liability to 12, among measures sought by Duterte to further extend his deadly crackdown on drugs and crime.
However the Senate has yet to pass the bill, which has been criticized by the United Nations and rights monitors.
cgm/tom


UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

Updated 41 min 47 sec ago
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UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

  • The figures are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics
  • UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017

GENEVA: A record 71 million people have been displaced worldwide from war, persecution and other violence, the UN refugee agency said Wednesday, an increase of more than 2 million from last year and an overall total that would amount to the world’s 20th most populous country.
The annual “Global Trends” report released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees counts the number of the world’s refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people at the end of 2018, in some cases following decades of living away from home.
The figures, coming on the eve of World Refugee Day on Thursday, are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics, especially the movement in some countries, including the US, against immigrants and refugees.
Launching the report, the high commissioner, Filippo Grandi, had a message for US President Donald Trump and other world leaders, calling it “damaging” to depict migrants and refugees as threats to jobs and security in host countries. Often, they are fleeing insecurity and danger themselves, he said.
The report also puts a statistical skeleton onto often-poignant individual stories of people struggling to survive by crossing rivers, deserts, seas, fences and other barriers, natural and man-made, to escape government oppression, gang killings, sexual abuse, militia murders and other such violence at home.
UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017 — and nearly a 65 percent increase from a decade ago. Among them, nearly three in five people — or more than 41 million people — have been displaced within their home countries.
“The global trends, once again unfortunately, go in what I would say is the wrong direction,” Grandi told reporters in Geneva. “There are new conflicts, new situations, producing refugees, adding themselves to the old ones. The old ones never get resolved.”
The phenomenon is both growing in size and duration. Some four-fifths of the “displacement situations” have lasted more than five years. After eight years of war in Syria, for instance, its people continue to make up the largest population of forcibly displaced people, at some 13 million.
Amid runaway inflation and political turmoil at home, Venezuelans for the first time accounted for the largest number of new asylum-seekers in 2018, with more than 340,000 — or more than one in five worldwide last year. Asylum-seekers receive international protection as they await acceptance or rejection of their requests for refugee status.
UNHCR said that its figures are “conservative” and that Venezuela masks a potentially longer-term trend.
Some 4 million people are known to have left the South American country in recent years. Many of those have traveled freely to Peru, Colombia and Brazil, but only about one-eighth have sought formal international protection, and the outflow continues, suggesting the strains on the welcoming countries could worsen.
Grandi predicted a continued “exodus” from Venezuela and appealed for donors to provide more development assistance to the region.
“Otherwise these countries will not bear the pressure anymore and then they have to resort to measures that will damage refugees,” he said. “We are in a very dangerous situation.”
The United States, meanwhile, remains the “largest supporter of refugees” in the world, Grandi said in an interview. The US is the biggest single donor to UNHCR. He also credited local communities and advocacy groups in the United States for helping refugees and asylum-seekers in the country.
But the refugee agency chief noted long-term administrative shortcomings that have given the United States the world’s biggest backlog of asylum claims, at nearly 719,000. More than a quarter-million claims were added last year.
He also decried recent rhetoric that has been hostile to migrants and refugees.
“In America, just like in Europe actually and in other parts of the world, what we are witnessing is an identification of refugees — but not just refugees, migrants as well — with people that come take away jobs that threaten our security, our values,” Grandi said. “And I want to say to the US administration — to the president — but also to the leaders around the world: This is damaging.”
He said many people leaving Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador through Mexico have faced violence by gangs and suffered from “the inability of these governments to protect their own citizens.”
The UNHCR report noted that by far, the most refugees are taken in in the developing world, not wealthy countries.
The figures marked the seventh consecutive year in which the numbers of forcibly displaced rose.
“Yet another year, another dreadful record has been beaten,” said Jon Cerezo of British charity Oxfam. “Behind these figures, people like you and me are making dangerous trips that they never wanted to make, because of threats to their safety and most basic rights.”