By Filane Mikee Cervantes

(File photo)

MANILA – A party-list member of the House of Representatives on Tuesday underscored the need to put in place mechanisms for the protection of minor children whose parents are working as overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Under House Bill (HB) 8560 filed by OFW party-list Rep. Marissa Magsino on June 22 and released to the media on Tuesday, the lady solon seeks to create a system of temporary guardianship to ensure the safety and well-being of children during the absence of their OFW parents.

Magsino said through the system, absentee parents would have the ability to designate trusted individuals as temporary guardians, facilitate regular communication with the children, and enable the continued provision of necessary emotional and financial support to their children.

“The urgency for this legislation arises from the vulnerability of children, particularly minors, to various forms of violence, exploitation, and abuse that may occur in their surroundings when their single parent or both parents are toiling hard abroad,” she said.

Magsino said while overseas work has brought opportunities for better and financially stable lives for many Filipinos, the changing dynamics in family relationships brought about by migration and parental absence could have negative consequences on the physical and emotional well-being, as well as personal security and safety of the children left behind.

“Children, particularly minors, are often vulnerable to insidious forms of violence, exploitation, and abuse that may occur in their homes, schools, online, and in other places they usually frequent,” she said.

She cited a case in March 2023 wherein a Filipina OFW in Saudi Arabia tragically lost her four children, aged 5, 9, 12. and 14, when her live-in partner brutally stabbed them before taking his own life.

Magsino also recalled another case in November 2022 wherein two children, aged 11 and 15, were raped and killed by the boyfriend of their OFW mother in the Middle East.

She noted that these incidents have spurred the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) to take immediate action in protecting children left under the care of non-parents and preventing any future occurrences of such violence.

Citing a United Nations (UN) report on “Migration, Development and Children Left Behind,” she said the separation of children from their parents who work abroad exposes them to certain risks, such as being abused or trafficked.

She said under HB 8560 posed measure, a solo-parent OFW, or legal spouses or common-law partners who are both OFWs and are both employed overseas at the same time and who have a minor child or children who will be left in the Philippines, shall, before departure to their host countries, execute a written document designating another person as temporary guardian to exercise parental responsibility over the minor child/children for a specified period coinciding with the former’s absence.

Any of the following persons may be designated as temporary guardian under the bill: surviving grandparent; elder sibling more than 21 years old; relative of the minor child within the third degree of consanguinity; minor child’s actual custodian more than 21 years old; and any person known to possess a good moral character as certified by the barangay unit having jurisdiction over the residence of the minor child and with no known criminal record or history.

To ensure the effectiveness of the system, the bill mandates close monitoring by barangay officials and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

This provision aims to assess the children’s well-being, detect any signs of dysfunction or threats they may face, and report such concerns to relevant authorities for timely and appropriate interventions.

She said the role of barangay officials and the DSWD is to ensure that all parties fulfill their responsibilities diligently, with appropriate sanctions in cases of neglect or non-compliance.

“No matter the circumstance, every child has the right to be protected from violence, exploitation, and abuse. Above all, protecting children means protecting their physical, mental, and psychosocial needs to safeguard their future. And that is the primordial duty of responsible parenting, with more reason for those who work abroad and leave their children behind,” she said. (PNA)