Bill raises statutory rape age to sixteen

THE chairperson of the House Committee on the Welfare of Children, Tingog party-list Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez, has filed a bill imposing life imprisonment for the crime of statutory rape against minors who are under 16 years old, regardless of the sexual orientation of the offenders or the victims.

House Bill (HB) No. 4160, co-authored by Romualdez’s husband, House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, effectively raises the age of statutory rape from the current 12 years old to 16 years old. It also increased the penalty for offenders, whether male or female.

“If this measure is passed into law, any adult who has sexual intercourse with a minor below 16 years old is guilty of rape. Even if the minor has given his or her consent to the sexual act, it is still rape,” said Rep. Yedda Romualdez.

“The sexual orientation of the offender is of no importance. Men and women, even members of the LGBT community, may be charged with statutory rape. No one is above the law,” she added.

In common law jurisdictions, statutory rape is nonforcible sexual activity in which one of the individuals is below the age of consent or the age required to legally consent to the behavior.

Current Philippine laws provide that sexual intercourse with children below 12 years old is illegal and tantamount to rape. In addition, sexual activity with a person below 18 years of age may constitute child abuse and exploitation.

But Yedda Romualdez noted that the current age for determining the crime of statutory rape is not compliant with the international average as evidenced by a 2015 report released by the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) East Asia and Pacific Region.

“In fact, the same study revealed that the age of sexual consent in the Philippine is the lowest in the Southeast Asian Region,” she pointed out.

“The establishment of a minimum age of sexual content is a critical component in shielding minors from sexual violence. Minors who are below 16 years old are still considered without power to resist to give their genuine and fully informed consent to any sexual activity,” she explained.

Under HB No. 4160, the crime of statutory rape is committed by any adult who shall commit any of the following acts against a minor under 16 years of age:

• Inserting a person’s penis into another person’s inner or outer vaginal labia, mouth or anal orifice;

• Inserting any instrument or object, including a finger, into another person’s inner or outer vaginal labia, or anal orifice;

• Causing the insertion of a person’s penis into the inner or outer vaginal labia, mouth, or oral orifice of another person through force, threat, intimidation, verbal pressure, persuasion, coercion, administration of alcohol, drugs resulting in the deprivation of reason, or fraudulent machination or grave abuse of authority;

• When the offended party is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious; and

• Causing two or more persons to engage in sexual acts, or their performance of any of the abovementioned acts through force, threat, intimidation, verbal pressure, persuasion, coercion, administration of alcohol, drugs resulting in the deprivation of reason, or fraudulent machination or grave abuse of authority, even if the perpetrator does not participate.

Under the bill, the subsequent valid marriage between the offended party and the offender shall not automatically extinguish the criminal action or the penalty imposed.

It also re-defined the crimes of qualified seduction, simple seduction, forcible abduction, and consented abduction in relation to minors as victims.

Qualified seduction is now “seduction of a minor 16 years and under 18 years of age, committed by any person in public authority, priest or religious engaged in legitimate religious vocation or calling, domestic, guardian, teacher or any person who, in any capacity, shall be entrusted with the education or custody of the minor seduced.”

Penalty for qualified seduction is raised to prison correctional in its medium and maximum peri