The Senate approved the Expanded Solo Parents Welfare Act on third and final reading on Monday, benefiting approximately 15 million single parents, 95 percent of whom are women.
The Senate Bill No. 1411, also known as the proposed Expanded Solo Parents Welfare Act earned a vote of 22-0.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, who chairs the Senate committee on women, children, and family relationships, as well as gender equality, thanked her colleagues for the bill’s passage.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, the bill’s sponsor and chairperson of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality, stated, “The Senate has come together to lift up an invisible and marginalized segment of our population.”
“It is a victory for solo parents who are striving to improve the welfare of their children,” Hontiveros said.
The measure’s highlights include automatic PhilHealth coverage for solo parents and their children, a P1,000 monthly cash subsidy for each indigent solo parent, and apprenticeship programs under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority for eligible solo parents and their children.
The bill also promotes for a comprehensive package of social protection for single parents, including, among other things, employment opportunities, legal advice and assistance, counseling services, parent effectiveness services, and stress debriefing, regardless of financial status.
According to the proposed legislation, single parents will be given preference in government housing projects.
In addition to existing leave privileges, the bill grants solo parents working in the government and private sector an additional seven days of paid parental leave and priority in telecommuting arrangements with their employers.
Meanwhile, the measure includes safeguards against abuse, stating that the absence of a valid and legal marriage between a child’s mother and father does not automatically entitle either individual to benefits under the proposed law.
The bill requires the submission of a sworn affidavit stating that the sole parent is not cohabiting with a partner or co-parent, has custody of the child or children, and bears sole parental responsibility for the child or children. Solo parents must obtain an identification card.
Furthermore, the bill will broaden the definition of “solo parent” to include the wife or husband of a low or semi-skilled overseas Filipino worker, such as construction and factory workers and domestic workers, who has worked abroad continuously for 12 months or more.
According to the bill, foster parents recognized by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, legal guardians recognized by the court, and relatives who have sole responsibility for caring for a child are all qualified as solo parents.
Hontiveros also emphasized that the pandemic’s effects exacerbate the difficulties faced by single parents as she recalled her own experience as a solo parent.
“At ngayong may pandemya, ang ganitong mga paghihirap ay lalong umigting. Bukod sa kailangang magtrabaho, biglang kailangan namin maging teacher sa aming anak. Pag may magkasakit, COVID man o hindi, wipe out ang konting ipon at walang kahalili sa gastos,” the senator said.
“Ang pagpasa ng Expanded Solo Parents Welfare Act ay pagpapatunay na ang solo parents ay may mga kakampi sa gubyerno. May mga handang tumulong para mapagaan pa ang ‘solo’ naming dinadala,” she further explained.