MANILA: A draft law that would have made it illegal for parents to smack their children in the Philippines has been vetoed by President Rodrigo Duterte, the presidential palace said Thursday.
The bill would have banned physical, humiliating, or degrading acts of punishment or discipline by parents or teachers on children.
It also called for repeat offenders to undergo anger management counselling.
“I am aware that there is a growing trend, prevalent in Western nations, that sees all forms of corporal punishment as an outdated form of disciplining children,” Duterte told Congress, explaining why he would not sign it into law.
“I strongly believe that we should resist this trend,” he said in a statement Thursday, adding he believed parents should be able to impose corporal punishment.
The president has also called for the age of criminal liability – currently 15 years old – to be lowered, to give more teeth to a narcotics crackdown that has claimed the lives of more than 5,000 drug suspects.
Richard Dy, spokesman for the Child Rights Network, told AFP rights groups were surprised at Duterte’s veto and said his organisation will call on Congress to vote to override the veto so it becomes law.
Dy said three in five Filipino children are victims of psychological and physical violence, and “more than half of these are happening at home.”
“There is a cultural norm in the Philippines that we can hit children in order to discipline them. That’s what we wanted to be changed with this bill,” Dy said.
Studies have shown that corporal punishment of children could lead to depression, suicide, or turn victims into child-smackers themselves when they grow up, Dy added.
Duterte has said publicly that as a child his mother would hit him “with whatever she could grab” and make him kneel in front of the altar with his arms spread like those of Jesus Christ nailed to the cross as punishment.
Dy said the bill took more than 10 years to pass in the House of Representatives and the Senate, with majority approval secured after its sponsors agreed to drop an early provision that would have imposed jail terms for offenders.
Last month parliament passed a controversial bill lowering the minimum age of criminal liability to 12, among measures sought by Duterte to further extend his deadly crackdown on drugs and crime.
However, the Senate has yet to pass the bill, which has been criticised by the United Nations and rights monitors.