President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (MNS Photo)

MANILA, May 17 (Mabuhay) — President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has signed into law a measure promoting the rights of deserted or abandoned children with unknown parents and recognizing their status as natural-born citizens.

Under Republic Act (RA) 11767 or the Foundling Recognition and Protection Act, an abandoned child found in the Philippines or in Philippine embassies, consulates, and territories abroad is presumed a natural-born Filipino citizen, regardless of the status or circumstances of birth.

“As a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, a foundling is accorded with rights and protections at the moment of birth equivalent to those belonging to such class of citizens whose citizenship does not need perfection or any further act,” RA 11767, inked by Duterte on May 6, read.

The presumption of natural-born status of a foundling may not be impugned in any proceeding unless substantial proof of foreign parentage is shown.

A deserted child shall be acknowledged a natural-born Filipino citizen, even though his birth certificate was simulated, his legal adoption was not processed, or his registration was delayed.

“In the event that the biological parents cannot be identified and located, the foundling shall be declared legally available for adoption, subject to existing laws, rules and regulations and taking into consideration the best interest of the child,” RA 11767 said.

Once the adoption is finalized, the adopted foundling shall be considered the legitimate child of the adopter for all intents and purposes.

The adopted foundling, according to RA 11767, is also entitled to the rights and obligations provided by law to legitimate children born to them without discrimination of any kind.

The National Authority for Child Care (NACC), Local Social Welfare and Development Office (LSWDO), and any accredited child-caring or child-placing agency shall ensure that foundlings are accorded with alternative childcare options, which include “kinship care, foster care, or even residential care, consistent with existing laws, while the search and inquiry into the facts of birth and parentage of the foundling is ongoing.”

A foundling shall also be granted available government program or service such as registration, facilitation of documents for adoption, education, legal and police protection, proper nourishment and medical care for survival and development, and admission to safe and secure child centers.

The NACC, through the Regional Alternative Child Care Office (RACCO), shall conduct a proactive and diligent search and inquiry into the facts of birth and parentage of the foundling, within 15 days after commitment or submission of the affidavit of the finder or other concerned person, or after the information that there is a probable foundling.

An affidavit of the finder, certification of the village captain or police authority on the foundling’s discovery, and NACC’s report must be submitted to register the foundling with the Local Civil Registrar, according to RA 11767.

The biological parents, the NACC or the LSWDO may file a petition for the revocation of the Certificate of Live Birth before the Local Civil Registrar, if the parentage of the foundling has been established or if there is a fraud to conceal the material facts of birth or parentage of the person that would otherwise not render the person as a foundling.

“The biological parent/s or legal guardian of a foundling may petition the NACC to recover the legal custody and restore parental authority over the child,” the law read.

The law also contains a provision for a “Safe Haven” provider that is tasked to take care of the infant.

To develop and implement more responsive policies, plans and programs for foundlings, regular and synchronized data collection shall be conducted by local government units in coordination with the Philippine Statistics Authority, NACC, and other relevant stakeholders.

All benefits provided under RA 11767 shall also apply to foundlings duly registered during their childhood but have reached the age of majority without be:nefitting from the adoption process. (MNS)

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