MANILA, Philippines—At least 7.5 million Filipinos, including children, are vulnerable to trafficking and may also find it difficult to enrol in schools, find jobs, travel or run for office—all because their births were not registered. Birth registration establishes the official identity of a child and protects them from harm and exploitation, according to Sen.
Grace Poe, who has pushed for an inquiry into the extent of unregistered births among the estimated 98 million Filipinos. The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) has reported that 10 percent of Filipinos under the age of five were not registered at birth. The Unicef report noted that many families in rural areas lacked information on how to register their children officially and may not fully appreciate the significance of birth registration. Most of them were also discouraged by the high fees and tedious process involved. Symptom of inequity According to Plan International, a development organization operating in 50 countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas, 7.5 million Filipino children and adults have no basic proof of identity.
“Unregistered births are a symptom of the inequities and disparities in society, with poor children from certain ethnic groups becoming the most vulnerable,” Poe said in filing Senate Resolution No. 417. Birth registration is just as crucial to the government’s database and enables officials to craft sound socioeconomic policies, the senator added. Poe cited the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which mandates the immediate registration of children after birth and their right to a name and nationality. Several laws, among them Commonwealth Act Nos. 591 and 3753, Presidential Decree 651 and Republic Act No. 9048, provide for a legal framework for the registration of births, Poe said. Basic human right Looking into the status of unregistered births in the country could help legislators craft laws that would ensure a 100-percent birth profiling, she said, adding that the issue was about upholding one’s basic human right to a legally recognized name and nationality. Poe also urged the National Statistics Office, local governments, private and government hospitals, clinics and birthing facilities to swiftly facilitate late birth registrations for free. No proof Social welfare officers have said that the lack of a birth certificate could pose challenges to a person enrolling in school, applying for a job, securing travel documents, or just enjoying the benefits of Filipino citizenship. Plan International also cited the case of minors in conflict with the law who ended up in regular jails because they could not present proof that they were underage.