Press Release
October 7, 2019

Transcript of Sen. Grace Poe's Speech at the Ceremonial Signing of the IRR of the Simulated Birth Rectification Act (RA 11222) and the Masustansyang Pagkain Para sa Batang Pilipino Act (RA 11037) DSWD Central Office

Isang karangalan at kaligayahan ang mapabilang sa ating kaganapan ngayong araw sapagkat ito talaga ang ipinaglaban ko noon pa. Kaya nais kong batiin ang ating mga kasama. Salamat din sa pag-imbita ninyo...

Ang DSWD daw ang puso ng pamahalaan. Ito daw ang totoong malasakit center.

It has been said that the moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life - the children; those who are in the twilight of life - the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life - the sick, the needy and the handicapped. Every day, you see the selfless and hardworking employees of the DSWD helping us pass that test. Maraming salamat po!

And let me also extend my thanks to Secretary Rolando Bautista. By accepting this post, Sir, you seem to have reserved your hardest mission for last.

This is so because poverty is harder to defeat than conventional enemies. Indigency is harder to vanquish than insurgents.

'Yung battlefield successes daw ay sinusukat ng body counts and territories liberated. But the war on poverty is gauged by different and difficult metrics: the poor emancipated; jobs created; and protection extended.

Nakakalula naman talaga ang mandate ng DSWD. It has the widest reach, and dispenses one-third of a billion pesos in aid every day.

It extends protective services to almost 500,000 people-may sakit, nasunugan, inabuso, stranded na mga pasahero, at iba pa.

It is a frontline disaster agency, as first responders and as rehabilitators; it takes part as well, in the reconstruction and rebuilding of lives. This year 549,000 tao ang bibigyan ng shelter assistance, cash-for-work at iba pang tulong. At ngayon, dadagdagan po natin kayo ng trabaho. Pasensya na po. Ngayong araw na ito, may IRR ng dalawang batas na ating pipirmahan. DSWD will again, be front and center in the implementation of these two laws. We need the expertise, competence, and dedication of the DSWD officers and employees in order to successfully carry out the goals of these two important Republic Acts.

Actually, parehong malapit sa aking puso ang mga batas na ito. Marahil dahilan kung bakit pinag-iigihan ko ang aking trabaho at dahilan kung bakit ako tumakbo. Ang sabi nga ng isang adoptive parent: "Ilang segundo lang putulin ang umbilical cord. Pero ang red tape na nakapulupot sa aming anak ay tila mas mahaba at mas mahirap alisin." When parents resort to simulating the birth of a child, the old law penalizes an act of love.

This law grants amnesty, rectifies the simulated birth of a child, fixes his status, assigns to the child legal rights, expunges criminal, civil and administrative liabilities, and provides for a less costly and faster process.

I'm extremely glad that the IRR is done. Without them, the laws remain as dreams unfulfilled.

However, much as we rejoice with this new legislation, there is still a missing piece in our search for a better system of adoption. Consultation with various organizations of adoptive parents, child rights advocates, this agency, and other stakeholders, led us to draft a bill which would establish an administrative adoption system and eliminate the judicial phase of adoption. Thus, I am happy to inform you that I have filed Senate Bill 1070, which shall also be known as the Domestic Administrative Adoption Act.

Sinasalamin po ng bill na ito ang paniniwala that an administrative proceeding will hasten the process, minimize the cost, declog our courts, and prod more people to embark on the legal fasttrack to adopting a child.

According to 2018 statistics, close to 6,500 Filipino children are in need of a permanent home. Of this number 3,793 children have already been made legally available for adoption since 2009.

I have said this before, but I share this with you again today, "Adopting one child may not change the world; but will certainly change the world for that child."

So I would like to appeal to the Cabinet officials here today, to convince the President to certify this measure as urgent so it could fasttrack its way through Congress.

Alam niyo po, ang pinagdaanan ng aking mga magulang para ako'y ma-legally adopt ay hindi biro. I was found in 1968, and I believe that the process was not finished until 1974. But they really worked on it at least within the next year that I was found. At that time, wala pa talagang mga kasong ganyan. Kasi pinapalaki na lang nila ang anak ng kamag-anak nila. But my mom, more than my father at that time, had the foresight to say, "mahihirapan 'yan if we don't legalize it."

Nahirapan talaga sila. Tapos, kailangang i-post sa dyaryo na mayroon kang nakitang bata, inanunsyo, at may mga mangilan-ngilan-siyempre, medyo kilala ang mga magulang ko-may mga taong lumapit at sinabing sila ang magulang ko, na talagang nagkukunwari lamang. Can you imagine, if my parents did not legalize my adoption, it would have been difficult for me to do any basic thing: enroll in school; probably secure a marriage certificate; even run for public office later on. That's why it's really important that we fast-track this bill. Kasi ang Korte natin, ang dami nang nakabinbin na trabaho. At ang nakakaintindi naman talaga ay ang DSWD kasi kayo naman ang nag-iinterview ng mga potential parents pati ng mga bata, kayo ang nangangalaga. Ngayon, 'yung pangalawang batas natin, 'yung Masustansyang Pagkain Para sa Batang Pilipino Act, ito pong batas na ito ay itinulak ng mafia ng mga kababaihan sa Senado. Alam mo, ang mga kababaihan doon, basta pagdating sa welfare of children, mothers, nagkakaintindihan kami. Ang mga lalaki, matulungin din naman, kaya lang sila, palaging, "Ang mahal naman niyan," pagdating sa mga gano'n. Pero remember, the President also just recently signed and enacted the law that will give free college tuition to all state universities and colleges. Sa tingin ba ninyo, makakarating ang mga batang 'yan sa college kung hindi 'yan pinakain ng tama. Magkakasakit 'yan o lalaking hindi matalino. So if we have to invest in infrastructure, go, if we have to invest in education, of course. But let us not forget the very basic: nutrition, physical and mental wellbeing of a child.

The second IRR deals with a basic human right, and that is the right to eat adequately, which in turn, means the right to survive. A study says that about 35,000 Filipino children die per year due to the effects of hunger and malnutrition. That's 95 kids fell by hunger every 24 hours.

General Bautista sir, I think that's an annual casualty rate many times higher than the Battle of Marawi.

Or it could be said that more kids die yearly from Tom-guts, sabi nga ni Yorme, than from Tokhang, as had been mentioned on the Senate floor when this bill was debated.

Thankfully, this law provides a menu of options and recipe of approaches to battle child hunger and malnutrition.

By the way, in 2016, part of my senatorial line-up was Mayor Isko Moreno. Actually, noong natapos na ang eleksyon, ang dinig ko, he was interested in the DSWD position. When we were campaigning together, that was our advocacy, 'yung nutribun nu'ng matagal nang panahon at doon sa mga bata. That's why, now, in Tondo, he opened the feeding kitchen because he believed in the same thing. 'Pag hindi nagugutom ang isang tao, mas maayos ang pag-iisip.

Kaya nga, in Thailand, ang sinabi ng past King, "If people's stomach are full, they will be less likely to indulge in destructive activities like drugs."

Kung mura ang pagkain, kakain na lang ako, imbes na sisinghot ng rugby para kalimutan ang malungkot kong sitwasyon.

Sa totoo lang, maganda naman ang panukalang pondo sa susunod na taon.

Ang DepEd ay tatanggap ng P5.98 billion sa 2020 para sa kanilang "school-based feeding program." Ang DSWD naman ay P3.6 billion para sa kanilang libreng pagkain sa mga preschoolers.

The combined budget for the two programs, I am pleased to note, is P1.1 billion higher than last year's. Ang DepEd ay may P1 billion na increase. Ang umento naman ng DSWD ay P110 million. Pero puwede pang tumaas 'yan, sabi ko sa inyo, may mafia ng mga kababaihan sa Senado. Pero may mga nakiki-simpatya diyan, si Senator Ralph kasi magaling sa budget 'yon. Si Sen. Ping Lacson din.

And I'd also like to acknowledge, I would like to thank Congresswoman Eriguel for mentioning the ones that are responsible for the House.

In the Senate, this was sponsored by both Sen. Chiz Escurdero and Sen. Bam Aquino, from the last Congress. Sen. Ralph Recto found the funding for this, and also Sen. Ping Lacson. So pagdating sa pagkain, at pagdating sa kapakanan ng mga bata, walang pulitika, walang kulay dapat.

I believe that the feeding program is linked to many outcomes. It incentivizes school and daycare attendance. It is a preventive measure that preempts health expenses that malnutrition incurs.

Ang mga bata, hindi nag-a-absent kung alam nilang may pagkain sa school, totoo 'yan. Tingnan ninyong example ang Valenzuela, they're one of the first that did this, the attendance rate is higher. There's a school run by the British Embassy Foundation in Tondo; doon, 99 percent ng mga bata, present palagi dahil doon libre ang pagkain sa lahat, hindi lang ang malnourished. At ang acceptance rate nila sa College, talo pa nila ang Taguig at Makati because of the food, and well, of course, the quality of education.

I would like to close my speech with an appeal for solidarity. When it comes to child rights and welfare, isang bansa po tayo.

The children awaiting families to claim them, raise them and love them, are helpless and alone in their yearning, just like I was, in that Iloilo church years ago. I was fortunate in that a Good Samaritan named Sayong Militar, found me in the church where I was left, and set me on a path towards my eventual adoption by my parents.

This is the same role you are called upon to play in the lives of these children: to provide the agency they lack, to act as their advocates, and to facilitate their journey from an unwanted childhood to one united with a family that every child deserves to have.

What you offer them, in short, is hope.

So my wish for all of you, is to be granted the strength, commitment, and joy needed to carry out your jobs. 'Pag may kailangan kayo, pagdating sa budget, basta makakatulong sa ating mga kababayan, bukas po ang ating opisina.

Maraming salamat po.

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