Running after ‘deadbeat dads’
Any fool can have a child. [But,] that doesn’t make you a father. It’s the courage to raise a child that makes you a father,” so said former US president Barack Obama in his 2008 Father’s Day message.
This theme of what it takes to be a “real” father ran through a series of Father’s Day pronouncements by Obama, whose book, “Dreams From My Father” was a rumination on his complicated relationship with his Kenyan father who had been a largely absent figure through most of the former president’s life.
That a man as accomplished and seemingly confident as Obama would be wracked by guilt and/or regret over his largely absent father decades after his father’s death says so much about the scars left by an absentee parent on a child. Indeed, the scars linger long after the child becomes an adult and even a parent.
This may explain why a recent pronouncement by Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Erwin Tulfo resonated with so many people and made it to the headlines. In a TV interview, Tulfo threatened so-called “deadbeat dads” who refuse or neglect to contribute to the caring, feeding, and nurturing of their children.
“’Yung mga single parent po natin, nagkakaproblema sa mga bastardo nilang mga ex, bastardong mga ama ng kanilang anak, ayaw mag-sustento,” (“Single parents are having problems with their bastard exes, bastard fathers of their children who won’t provide financial support,”) said Tulfo, a former broadcaster known for his hard-hitting stance toward miscreants.
Tulfo added that he would encourage single parents to come to the DSWD where they will be assisted with their demands for child support, including writing letters to the absentee parent. Should these letters be ignored, Tulfo threatened to sue the neglectful parent, saying that according to the amended Family Code, any parent, being a signatory to a child’s birth certificate, is obliged to provide financial support until the child reaches 18 years of age.
“If they won’t support the kids, they are already violating the law,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court further bolstered the rights of women and children when it ruled that provisions of the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children (VAWC) Act apply to women in illicit relationships, meaning they were or are not married to their male partners.
In a decision penned by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, the high tribunal ruled that the legal status of a partnership or relationship “does not diminish (a woman’s) dignity in any way.” Any woman, the court ruled, “will be protected just the same by the law that values her and her children’s dignity and guarantees full respect for their human rights.”
The case stemmed from an appeal from a petitioner to lift a permanent protection order issued against him “to prevent further acts of violence” against his long-time live-in woman partner and their children. In his pleading, the petitioner, who is married to another woman, argued that while the VAWC law offers protection to women even in illicit relationships, “this should be interpreted to mean a relationship without any legal impediment to marry each other.” Otherwise, he argued, “the law would effectively tolerate adulterous relationships.”
The Supreme Court effectively shot down this argument, which ruled that the law “protects women and their children from various forms of violence and abuse committed within a setting of an intimate relationship.”
For too long, men have used their more powerful status and privilege in society, especially in the family, to excuse or perpetuate abuse against those weaker or who wield less power than they. Such forms of abuse include neglecting their duties as husband/partner and as a parent, such as being a “deadbeat dad” who neglects not just the children’s material needs but more so their emotional enrichment and moral guidance.
Indeed, fatherhood entails being more than a sperm donor. It demands an investment of presence, time, duty, and, yes, love. It is a tough, demanding, and challenging calling. But all these come with the territory, for as many a parent can testify, raising a child to adulthood may be difficult but it is also filled with joy and satisfaction. Or, as the saying goes: “A dad should be a child’s first hero; not their first disappointment.”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.