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am aware that there is a growing trend, prevalent in Western nations, that sees all forms of corporal punishment as an outdated form of disciplining children,” Duterte told Congress, explaining why he would not sign it into law.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.
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US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

Updated 19 April 2019
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US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

  • A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend
  • The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group

KABUL: The US envoy for peace in Afghanistan expressed disappointment on Friday after the collapse of a planned meeting between the Taliban and a group of Afghan politicians in Qatar that exposed some of the deep divisions hampering efforts to end the war.
A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend. The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group, which included some government officials attending in a personal capacity.
“I’m disappointed Qatar’s intra-Afghan initiative has been delayed,” Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative for Afghan reconciliation, said on Twitter. “I urge all sides to seize the moment and put things back on track by agreeing to a participant list that speaks for all Afghans.”
The collapse of the meeting before it had even started, described as a “fiasco” by one senior Western official, laid bare the tensions that have hampered moves toward opening formal peace negotiations.
Khalilzad, a veteran Afghan-born diplomat, has held a series of meetings with Taliban representatives but the insurgents have so far refused to talk to the Western-backed government in Kabul, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.
The Doha meeting was intended to prepare the ground for possible future talks by building familiarity among Taliban officials and representatives of the Afghan state created after the US-led campaign that toppled the Taliban government in 2001. A similar encounter was held in Moscow in February.
President Ashraf Ghani’s office blamed Qatari authorities for the cancelation, saying they had authorized a list of participants that differed from the one proposed by Kabul, “which meant disrespect for the national will of the Afghans.”
“This act is not acceptable for the people of Afghanistan,” it said in a statement on Friday.
Sultan Barakat, director of the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies in Qatar, which had been facilitating the meeting, said there was no disagreement about the agenda.
“Rather, there is insufficient agreement around participation and representation to enable the conference to be a success,” he tweeted.
Preparations had already been undermined by disagreements on the government side about who should attend, as well as by suspicions among rival politicians ahead of presidential elections scheduled for September.
The Taliban derided the agreed list of 250 participants as a “wedding party.” Some senior opposition figures who had been included refused to attend.
The Taliban also objected to Ghani’s comments to a meeting of delegates that they would be representing the Afghan nation and the Afghan government, a statement that went against the insurgents’ refusal to deal with the Kabul administration.