The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) urges for the swift passage of Senate Bill (SB) No. 379 or the Basic Education Mental Health and Well-Being Promotion Act filed by Senator Gatchalian in the 19th Congress.
In view of the Department of Education (DepEd) report detailing the state of mental health, guidance counseling, and suicide cases in public schools in the country, CHR reiterates its calls to institutionalise more holistic and cohesive mental health programs in response to the increasing alarming mental health-related incidents among the youth.
The DepEd report presented during the Senate Committee Hearing on Basic Education reveals that in 2021, 404 learners from public schools committed suicide, while 2,147 students attempted to take their own lives. In the same period, 775,962 learners also sought guidance counseling. However, out of 60,157 schools, there were only 16,557 guidance officers and 2,093 registered guidance counselors to address the students’ issues.
Most evidently, there is a need to expedite and prioritise the passage of SB 379.
The Commission underscores that the proposed bill bolsters the implementation of Republic Act No. 11036 or the Mental Health Act. In particular, by appropriating funds, creating plantilla positions for guidance associates, and increasing the salaries of guidance counselors, children will gain more access to quality and appropriate services that address various mental health concerns.
As the country’s Ombud for Children, CHR supports the establishment of these interventions as complement to DepEd’s existing Rights-Based Education Framework for Philippine Basic Education (RBE-DepEd), which posits the interrelation between the right to quality education and the right to respect and well-being in a learning environment.
The Commission asserts that no child should be subjected to pressure and harsh treatment that would drive them to isolation, self-harm, or suicide. All children have the right to spend their learning years in a safe, nurturing space that promotes their dignity and mental well-being pursuant to the human rights principles set in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and other human rights instruments to which the Philippines is a signatory, as well as domestic laws protecting the rights and welfare of children.
In upholding Filipino young learners’ right to study in a safe and secure environment and right to be protected from bullying, discrimination, and all forms of harm, the Commission stands ready to provide guidance to the government and academic institutions so they may improve the way they uphold their obligations to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights, particularly of children. ###
 Committee on Basic Education, Senate of the Philippines. Committee Hearing on Senate Bill No. S. No. 379 or the Basic Education Mental Health and Well-Being Promotion Act. 31 January 2023. https://www.youtube.com/live/lgVv7TbZ-lM?feature=share&t=1545