This article talks about Republic Act No. 11861 which expanded the rights and benefits of solo parents by introducing penalties for violation, creation of a system for registration for Solo Parents, and institutionalized the management of solo parents and benefits by creating a local government office designated to administer, monitor and regulate the identification and registration of solo parents.
Expanding the Privileges of Solo Parents
The original law Republic Act No. 8972, also known as “Solo Parents’ Welfare Act of 2000, was the law that governed the benefits and privileges of solo parents. The original law, while considered as landmark legislation in the 2000s, was quite terse, not only in terms of length, but also in terms of benefits provided to Solo Parents.
The new law, Republic Act No. 11861, significantly amended the provisions of Republic Act No. 8972. Not only did the new law widen the scope and benefits given under Republic Act No. 8972, the new law also introduced penal provisions and penalties for violation, created a system for registration for Solo Parents, and institutionalized the management of solo parents and benefits by creating a local government office designated to administer, monitor and regulate the identification and registration of solo parents, and their consequent availment of privileges under the new law.
Increased Coverage under Republic Act No. 11861
The law expanded the definition of “children” of solo parents, to include those living with and dependent upon the solo parent for support who are unmarried, unemployed and twenty-two (22) years old or below, or those over twenty-two (22) years old but who are unable to fully take care or protect themselves from abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation, or discrimination because of a physical or mental disability or condition.
There are now six (6) categories of solo parents, namely:
(a) A parent who provides sole parental care and support of the child or children due to –
(1) Birth as a consequence of rape, even without final conviction: Provided, That the mother has the sole parental care and support of the child or children: Provided, further, That the solo parent under this category may still be considered a solo parent under any of the categories in this section;
(2) Death of the spouse;
(3) Detention of the spouse for at least three (3) months or service of sentence for a criminal conviction;
(4) Physical or mental incapacity of the spouse as certified by a public or private medical practitioner;
(5) Legal separation or de facto separation for at least six (6) months, and the solo parent is entrusted with the sole parental care and support of the child or children;
(6) Declaration of nullity or annulment of marriage, as decreed by a court recognized by law, or due to divorce, subject to existing laws, and the solo parent is entrusted with the sole parental care and support of the child or children; or
(7) Abandonment by the spouse for at least six (6) months;
(b) Spouse or any family member of an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW), or the guardian of the child or children of an OFW: Provided, That the said OFW belongs to the low/semi-skilled worker category and is away from the Philippines for an uninterrupted period of twelve (12) months: Provided, further, That the OFW, his or her spouse, family member, or guardian of the child or children of an OFW falls under the requirements of this section;
(c) Unmarried mother or father who keeps and rears the child or children;
(d) Any legal guardian, adoptive or foster parent who solely provides parental care and support to a child or children;
(e) Any relative within fourth (4th) civil degree of consanguinity or affinity of the parent or legal guardian who assumes parental care and support of the child or children as a result of the death, abandonment, disappearance or absence of the parents or solo parent for at least six (6) months: Provided, That in cases of solo grandparents who are senior citizens but who have the sole parental care and support over their grandchildren who are unmarried, or unemployed and twenty-two (22) years old or below, or those twenty-two (22) years old or over but who are unable to fully take care or protect themselves from abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation, or discrimination because of a physical or mental disability or condition, they shall be entitled to the benefits of this Act in addition to the benefits granted to them by Republic Act No. 9257, otherwise known as the ‘Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2003’; or
(f) A pregnant woman who provides sole parental care and support to the unborn child or children.
New Benefits for Solo Parents under the Republic Act No. 11861
The new law mandates the creation of a “comprehensive package of social protection services for solo parents and their families” to be developed and administered by various government agencies.
While not mandatory under the new law, solo parents are to be given priority by their employer, in case the latter decides to adopt alternative work arrangements under Republic Act No. 11165 also known as the Telecommuting Act.
Also, the new law clarified that the forfeitable and noncumulative parental leave for solo parents, of not more than seven (7) working days is with pay, and granted to any solo parent employee, regardless of employment status. In addition, the new law added that this is available in both the government and the private sector.
The new law also requires the Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, and TESDA, to provide scholarship programs for solo parents, and a full scholarship for one (1) child of a solo parent in institutions of basic, higher and technical vocational skills education. This scholarship applies to all children, dependent on the solo parent for support, who are unmarried, unemployed and twenty-two (22) years of age or below.
The new law also provided for a new section on additional benefits for solo parents, as follows:
- Monthly cash subsidy of One thousand pesos (P1,000.00) per month per solo parent who is earning a minimum wage and below, provided that the solo parent is not a recipient of any other cash assistance or subsidy from any other government programs. A beneficiary who is also a senior citizen or a person with disability (PWD) may continue receiving senior citizen or PWD benefits in addition to receiving the benefits for solo parents.
- Ten percent (10%) discount and exemption from the value-added tax (VAT) on baby’s milk, food and micronutrient supplements, and sanitary diapers purchased, duly prescribed medicines, vaccines, and other medical supplements purchased from the birth of the child or children until six (6) years of age of a solo parent who is earning less than Two hundred fifty thousand pesos (P250,000.00) annually
- Automatic PhilHealth coverage with premium contributions to be paid by the National Government;
- Prioritization of solo parents, particularly solo mothers in re-entering the work force, and their children as applicable, in apprenticeships, scholarships, livelihood training, reintegration programs of the government; and
- Prioritization and allocation in housing projects with liberal terms of payment on government low-cost housing projects.
New Limitations and Requirements Introduced
To avail of the additional benefits under Republic Act No. 11861, the solo parent is required to present a Solo Parent Identification Card (SPIC). In addition, the solo parent must secure and present the solo parent booklet to avail of certain benefits under the law.
Also, under Section 13 of the new law, only a solo parent exercising sole parental care and support of the child or children is entitled to claim the benefits of solo parent under this Act. If the parent of the solo parent provides occasional assistance and/or seasonal gifts that do not meet the legal requirement of support under The Family Code of the Philippines, the former’s status as solo parent will not change. Moreover, the absence of a valid or legal marriage does not automatically entitle either or both persons to be solo parents if both father and mother are mutually supporting their child or dependent.
Obviously, if a solo parent gets married, he or she ceases to be such.
Solo Parent Office or Division of the Local Government
The law mandated the creation of a Solo Parent Office (SPO) in every province and city and a Solo Parent Division (SPD) under the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office in every municipality. This office shall issue the free solo parent booklets, act on complaints filed by solo parents against individual, establishment, business entity, institution or agency that refuses or fails to provide the privileges and additional benefits of solo parents, and monitor the availment, grant of privileges, and compliance with entities under the new law.
Solo parents are now required to register and secure an ID Card and Booklet to avail of the benefits. The requirements for registration of the solo parent will depend on the category under which the solo parent is part of.
New Penal Provisions and Penalties
Republic Act No. 11861 introduced a new regime of penalties for those who will violate the law. For the first violation, the law imposes a fine of not less than Ten thousand pesos (P10,000.00) but not more than Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) or imprisonment of not less than six (6) months but not more than one (1) year, or both, at the discretion of the court. A subsequent violation is met with a fine of not less than One hundred thousand pesos (P100,000.00) but not more than Two hundred thousand pesos (P200,000.00) or imprisonment of not less than one (1) year but not more than two (2) years, or both at the discretion of the court.
Any person who misrepresents status or falsifies any document to avail of the benefits, ot cause another person to avail or be denied of the benefits for solo parents, or any person who abuses the privileges and benefits granted under the law, is punished with a fine of not more than Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) and imprisonment of not less than six (6) months but not more than one (1) year, or both, at the discretion of the court.
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