Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has signed a law promoting the rights of abandoned children with unknown parents and giving them more protection.
Signed on May 6, Republic Act No 11767, or the Foundling Recognition and Protection Act, states that a foundling found in the country 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 result, he or she “shall be 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.”
The presumption of natural-born status of foundlings may not be impugned or challenged unless substantial proof of foreign parentage is shown, the law said.
It will also be unaffected by the fact that the birth certificate was simulated, or the lack of a legal adoption process, or by inaction or delay in reporting, documenting or registering a foundling.
RA 11767 vests state services related to the protection and welfare of foundlings on the National Authority for Child Care (NACC), an attached agency of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
It also lays down rules for the adoption and legitimization of foundlings and alternative child care options such as foster care. The adoption procedures retroactively apply to previously registered foundlings who are already adults.
In addition, it designates “safe havens” where any parent may relinquish an infant 30 days old or younger without incurring criminal liability. These include licensed child-caring and child-placing agencies, and government health facilities such as hospitals, infirmaries, city health offices, birthing homes, rural health units and barangay health stations.
Also designated as safe havens are the local social welfare office and residential care facilities managed by DSWD or local government.
Biological parents and legal guardians of a foundling may still petition the NACC to recover legal custody and restore parental authority unless the child has already been adopted.
Finders of foundling must inform, through an affidavit, the local social welfare officer or the nearest safe haven provider within 48 hours.
Within 15 days after receiving the finder’s affidavit or after the foundling is committed to a safe haven, the NACC, through its regional office and with the help of local authorities, must conduct “a proactive and diligent search and inquiry into the facts of birth and parentage of the foundling.”If the search fails, the foundling will be registered in the regional office and a certificate of live birth will be applied for the child.
The law imposes a prison term of six months up to six years on those who falsify registration of the supposed foundling. If the falsification was meant to facilitate kidnapping or trafficking, all those involved will be additionally fined between P1 million and P5 million, in addition to three months to two years in jail, or both.
Those who refuse, delay or obstruct the search for the facts of birth and parentage of the foundling shall be jailed for six months up to five years. A safe haven provider who fails to report the relinquishment of the foundling within 48 hours shall be fined between P500,000 and P1 million.
PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK