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Children crammed in SUV ‘a case of child abuse’— Ejercito

Sen. JV Ejercito has denounced a video showing primary school children being stuffed like sardines in the trunk of a private vehicle in Binondo, Manila. He called it “a case of child abuse.”

“This act is not acceptable as this might endanger the health and life of the child. This may be considered as a case of child abuse,” Ejercito on Oct. 1 told VERA Files.

The senator was reacting to a report aired by ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol Sept. 28, showing six children being made to stand side by side in the compartment of an SUV by their teachers.

A few minutes later, the door of the SUV was shut tight, signaling the vehicle to leave.

According to the Land Transportation Franchise and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), only buses, mini-buses, coasters, coaches and vans with front-facing seats and individual seat belts are allowed to transport schoolchildren.

Ejercito said in an email to VERA Files that unacceptable acts like these would be banned once a measure seeking to protect Filipino children riding private vehicles be passed into law.

Now pending in the plenary, Senate Bill 1447 or the “Child Safety in Motor Vehicles Act of 2017,” authored by Ejercito, requires private car owners with children aged 12 and below to use car seats or child restraints that match their size, height and weight.

Child restraints—the collective term for child safety seats, car seats, booster seats and car beds—are safety devices specially designed to keep children secure in a vehicle during a crash or sudden braking.

When used correctly, they reduce deaths among infants by about 70 percent and up to 80 percent among small children, according to the World Health Organization.

The country’s seat belt law does not cover special car seats for children.

From 2006 to 2014, an average of 671 Filipino children aged 14 and below died each year in road crashes, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show. Road crashes are the second leading cause of death for Filipinos 17 years and below, according to the Department of Health.

“With the passage of this measure, we will be able to protect children on our streets,” Ejercito said, referring to Senate Bill 1447. “And certainly, cramming children inside an SUV will not be allowed.”

Aside from requiring child car seats, the bill also disallows children left unattended inside motor vehicles and having them sit in front of a private vehicle.

“Our children are the future of this nation; we need to accord them utmost protection and care,” the senator said.

This story is produced under the Bloomberg Initiative Global Road Safety Media Fellowship implemented by the World Health Organization, Department of Transportation and VERA Files.