Friday, September 08, 2006

A primer on RA 8972 or the Solo Parents’ Welfare Act of 2000

Update as of August 13, 2010:Senator Loren Legarda filed SB No. 1439 entitled Solo Parents Welfare Act of 2010.” The bill seeks to amend RA 8972 and to provide the following support and benefits for solo parents:

1. Ten percent discount from all purchases of clothing and clothing materials for the child from birth up to two years;

2. Fifteen discount from all purchases of baby’s milk, food and food supplements;

3. Fifteen percent discount from all purchases of medicines and other medical supplements/supplies for the child; and

4. Basic personal exemption from individual income tax.

Last March 19, I gave a 3-hour legal seminar for the single parents group of a PCEC-affiliated church in Quezon City. Known as the Single Parents For Christ (SPARC), the group is composed of some 20 to 30 women who are single parents for various reasons - widowhood, separation from their husbands, grandparents left to take care of grandkids as the parents are working abroad, etc.

We had a fruitful afternoon discussing the essential provisions of the Family Code of the Philippines, RA 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004, and RA 8972 or the Solo Parents’ Welfare Act of 2000. If you’d like to know more about this group of dear ladies, please surf to their website.

While browsing at the new OMF Lit bookstore in Boni Avenue in Mandaluyong, I saw a book entitled, if I remember correctly, “On Single Parenting” published by Zondervan, priced at around two hundred eighty pesos. Once I get a copy of the book, I will do a review on it in my Salt and Light blog. (You might also be interested in the video “Si Nanay Ay Si Tatay” available at House of Praise outlets.) Anyway, for now, I have below a primer on our country’s solo parents’ law.

What is our country’s law for single parents?

Republic Act No. 8972 or the “Solo Parents' Welfare Act of 2000” is the Philippine law on single parents. It was promulgated on November 7, 2000.

What is the policy of the State regarding solo parents?

It is the policy of the State to promote the family as the foundation of the nation, strengthen its solidarity and ensure its total development. Towards this end, it will develop a comprehensive program of services for solo parents and their children to be carried out by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Department of Health (DOH), the Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS), the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), the National Housing Authority (NHA), the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and other related government and non-government agencies. (Sec.2, RA 8972)

Who is considered under the law as a “solo parent”?

Any individual who falls under any of the following categories is considered as a single parent:
1. A woman who gives birth as a result of rape and other crimes against chastity even without a final conviction of the offender: Provided, That the mother keeps and raises the child;

2. Parent left solo or alone with the responsibility of parenthood due to death of spouse;

3. Parent left solo or alone with the responsibility of parenthood while the spouse is detained or is serving sentence for a criminal conviction for at least one year;

4. Parent left solo or alone with the responsibility of parenthood due to physical and/or mental incapacity of spouse as certified by a public medical practitioner;

5. Parent left solo or alone with the responsibility of parenthood due to legal separation or de facto separation from spouse for at least one year, as long as he/she is entrusted with the custody of the children;

6. Parent left solo or alone with the responsibility of parenthood due to declaration of nullity or annulment of marriage as decreed by a court or by a church as long as he or she is entrusted with the custody of the children;

7.Parent left solo or alone with the responsibility of parenthood due to abandonment of spouse for at least one year;

8. Unmarried mother or father who has preferred to keep and rear the child or children instead of having others care for them or give them up to a welfare institution;

9. Any other person who solely provides parental care and support to a child or children;

10. Any family member who assumes the responsibility of head of family as a result of the death, abandonment, disappearance or prolonged absence of the parents or solo parent.
A change in the status or circumstance of the parent claiming benefits under this Act, such that he/she is no longer left alone with the responsibility of parenthood, shall terminate his/her eligibility for these benefits.

Who are considered as “children” under RA 8972?

The term “children” refers to those living with and dependent upon the solo parent for support who are unmarried, unemployed and not more than eighteen years of age, or even over eighteen years but are incapable of self-support because of mental or physical disability.

What is “parental responsibility”?

The term “parental responsibility” with respect to their minor children refers to the rights and duties of the parents as defined in Article 220 of the Family Code of the Philippines.”

What are the criteria for support under RA 8972?
1. Any solo parent whose income in the place of domicile falls below the poverty threshold as set by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and subject to the assessment of the DSWD worker in the area is eligible for assistance;

2. That any solo parent whose income is above the poverty threshold can enjoy the benefits mentioned in Sections 6, 7 and 8 of RA 8972.
What are government agencies required to provide under RA 8972?

A comprehensive package of social development and welfare services for solo parents and their families will be developed by the DSWD, DOH, DECS, CHED, TESDA, DOLE, NHA and DILG, in coordination with local government units and a nongovernmental organization with proven track record in providing services for solo parents.

The DSWD must coordinate with concerned agencies the implementation of the comprehensive package of social development and welfare services for solo parents and their families.

What are included in this package of services for single parents?

The package of services will initially include:
(a) Livelihood development services which include trainings on livelihood skills, basic business management, value orientation and the provision of seed capital or job placement.

(b) Counseling services which include individual, peer group or family counseling. This will focus on the resolution of personal relationship and role conflicts.

(c) Parent effectiveness services which include the provision and expansion of knowledge and skills of the solo parent on early childhood development, behavior management, health care, rights and duties of parents and children.

(d) Critical incidence stress debriefing which includes preventive stress management strategy designed to assist solo parents in coping with crisis situations and cases of abuse.

(e) Special projects for individuals in need of protection which include temporary shelter, counseling, legal assistance, medical care, self-concept or ego-building, crisis management and spiritual enrichment.
What is “flexible work schedule”?

It is the right granted to a solo parent employee to vary arrival and departure time without affecting the core work hours as defined by the employer. Under Section 6 of RA 8972, the employer must provide for a flexible working schedule for solo parents: But the flexible work schedule should not affect individual and company productivity: Provided, further, That any employer may request exemption from the above requirements from the DOLE on meritorious grounds.

What about the issue of work discrimination, in terms of job assignments or promotion?

Section 7 of RA 8972 provides that employers must not discriminate against solo parents with respect to terms and conditions of their employment.

What is the so-called single parent leave?

Section 8 of Republic Act No. 8972 states that “in addition to leave privileges under existing laws, parental leave of not more than seven (7) working days every year shall be granted to any solo parent employee who has rendered service of at least one (1) year.” Please take note of the phrase “in addition to leave privileges under existing laws.”

What if there are already benefits under company policies or provisions of the CBA? Can the parental leave still be availed of?

The Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 8972 (take note specially of Section 21) state:

Section 18. Parental Leave – In addition to leave privileges under existing laws, parental leave of not more than seven (7) working days every year shall be granted to any solo parent employee who has rendered service of at least one (1) year. The seven-day parental leave shall be non-cumulative.

Section 19. Conditions for Entitlement of Parental Leave – A solo parent shall be entitled to parental leave provided that:

(a) He/She has rendered at least one (1) year of service whether continuous or broken at the time of the effectivity of the Act;

(b) He/She has notified his/her employer of the availment thereof within a reasonable time period; and

(c) He/She has presented a Solo Parent Identification Card to his/her employer.

Section 20. Non-conversion of Parental Leave – In the event that the parental leave is not availed of, said leave shall not be convertible to cash unless specifically agreed upon previously. However, if said leave were denied an employee as a result of non-compliance with the provisions of these Rules by an employer, the aforementioned leave may be used a basis for the computation of damages.

Section 21. Crediting of Existing Leave – If there is an existing or similar benefit under a company policy, or a collective bargaining agreement or collective negotiation agreement the same shall be credited as such. If the same is greater than the seven (7) days provided for in the Act, the greater benefit shall prevail.
If the company already gives leave benefits or there are applicable provisions in the CBA, the question that should be resolved is: Are the benefits similar to or greater than the parental leave under RA 8972? If not, then these benefits under company policies or CBA provisions cannot be credited under Section 21.

Companies, in seeking ways to save on costs and expenses, sometimes refuse to grant the solo parent leave. They claim that that there are existing or benefits similar to the solo parent leave under company policies. If you are a solo parent working for a company that refuses to grant the solo parent leave by claiming that Section 21 of the IRR applies, then you should seek the help of the Public Assistance and Complaints Unit of the DOLE. The PACU will help you file a complaint and then call you and your employer to a mediation/conciliation conference. If nothing comes out of the conciliation, the PACU will endorse your complaint to the National Labor Relations Commission.

A common problem of single parents is providing educational opportunities for their children. Does RA 8972 have provision on this issue?

The DECS, CHED and TESDA are mandated to provide the following benefits and privileges:
(1) Scholarship programs for qualified solo parents and their children in institutions of basic, tertiary and technical/skills education; and

(2) Nonformal education programs appropriate for solo parents and their children.

Another problem of single parents is housing. What benefits if any are provided under RA 8972?

Solo parents shall be given allocation in housing projects and shall be provided with liberal terms of payment on said government low-cost housing projects in accordance with housing law provisions prioritizing applicants below the poverty line as declared by the NEDA.

What about medical assistance?

The DOH shall develop a comprehensive health care program for solo parents and their children. The program shall be implemented by the DOH through their retained hospitals and medical centers and the local government units (LGUs) through their provincial/district/city/municipal hospitals and rural health units (RHUs).

How do I avail of the benefits under RA 8972?

You can communicate with the DSWD office of your town or city as to the requirements.

Postscript: As you can see from the above, the package of benefits for single parents is quite slim. Perhaps, our enlightened legislators will see the need to increase the assistance to single parents. One idea the SPARC ladies came up with is the “Single Parents ID” just like that of the senior citizens, with all of the corresponding benefits.