MANILA – A bill promoting the rights of deserted children with unknown parents or “foundlings” and declaring their status as natural-born Filipino citizens hurdled second reading approval at the House of Representatives.
During Monday’s plenary session, the chamber passed through voice voting House Bill 7679 or the proposed “Foundling Welfare Act.”
The bill defines foundling as a deserted or abandoned child of unknown parentage and whose date or circumstances of birth on Philippine territory are unknown and undocumented.
Ang Probinsyano party-list Rep. Ronnie Ong, a principal author, said the measure aims to address the issue surrounding the citizenship status of foundlings, who remain vulnerable and are in danger of being deprived of countless rights and opportunities.
Ong noted that the present system requires foundlings to present physical proof of blood relation to a Filipino parent before they are considered natural-born citizens.
“This requirement is impossible, oppressive and discriminatory. It is as if foundlings are second-class citizens only because of the inability to identify their biological parents which they should never be blamed for,” Ong said.
The bill proposes that all foundlings shall be recognized as natural-born Filipino citizens, and shall automatically be accorded such rights and protection as those belonging to such class of citizens.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development shall be mandated to conduct proactive and diligent search and inquiry into the facts of birth and parentage of the abandoned children or infants.
A foundling shall be entitled to the available government programs or services, such as registration, facilitation of documents for adoption, education, legal and police protection, proper nourishment and medical care for their survival and development, and admission to safe and secure child centers.
The bill also provides hefty fines and jail term for various acts that are deemed to violate the basic rights of foundlings. (PNA)