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Almost half of the population in the Philippines are children. With a population growth rate of nearly 2 per cent per year, the government has a difficult task in providing children with enough resources to ensure their rights. The Philippines are making significant progress in the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Still, poverty coupled with political violence pose serious challenges to children. The total number of poor Filipino families is estimated at 27 per cent.1

Children on the streets

The country has a high number of street children. According to UNICEF estimates approximately 250 000 children are living on the streets 2 and about 3,7 million children are working.3 Human trafficking is a serious problem in the Philippines. Aside from being a source country for human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation, it is also a transit and destination country. Between 60 000 and 100 000 children are trafficked annually, most of them girls. Children are recruited by agents from poor families in rural areas, who send their daughters to the city to earn money.4The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child points out the weakness in the legislation, as the minimum age of sexual consent is not clearly enough established in domestic legislation and the Revised Penal Code (Republic Act No. 3815) imposes maximum penalties for sexual offences when the victim is under 12 years of age, but imposes lower penalties for sexual offences against minors over 12 years of age.5

Children in conflict

The political violence continues to affect children in the country. Local authorities have been involved in death-squad operations targeting children.6 There are also reports of children being used by government linked paramilitaries and armed opposition. Children, sometimes as young as 11 years old, have been recruited by armed rebel movements, such as the New People’s Army, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and the Abu Sayyaf Group, to serve as combatants, spies, guards, cooks or medics. According to 2005 estimates, up to 13 per cent of the armed group MILF’s 10,000 members were children.7


The age of criminal responsibility is 9 years. Despite legislative and procedural safeguards put in place in 2006 with the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, children in detention are imprisoned together with adults in poor detention conditions, increasing the risk of physical or sexual abuse.8 The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child is alarmed over the increasing reports of cases of child abuse and neglect and the notable deficiencies in domestic legislation as regards penalizing all forms of abuse, neglect and mistreatment, including sexual abuse. This includes alleged cases of sexual abuse of children in the framework of religious institutions. There are also a number of reported cases of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment of children, particularly of children in detention. Many children below the age of 18 are placed with adults in detention.9

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