A JOINT panel of the House of Representatives on Thursday approved a substitute measure raising the age of statutory rape from the current 12 years old to 16 years old regardless of the sexual orientation of the offenders or the victims and provides stronger protection against acts of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.
The House committees on the revision of laws and on the welfare of children chaired by Zambales Rep. Cheryl Deloso-Montalla and Tingog party-list Rep. Yedda Marie K. Romualdez, respectively, approved the substitute measure, which is a consolidation of 10 pending bills. Deputy Speaker and Antipolo City Rep. Robbie Puno moved to approve the substitute bill, a product of deliberations by a technical working group (TWG) led by Agusan del Norte Rep. Lawrence Fortun. Romualdez, principal author with House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez of House Bill (HB) No. 4160 or one of the ten consolidated bills, effectively raises the age of statutory rape from the current 12 years old to 16 years old and imposing reclusion perpetua or 40 years imprisonment.
If the bill is passed into law, the lady House leader said any adult who has sexual intercourse with a minor below 16 years old will be guilty of rape even if the minor has given his or her consent to the sexual act.
“The proposed Substitute Bill on Increasing the Age of Sexual Consent has two main objectives. First, to ensure the certainty of punishment of crimes such as statutory rape, as well as, other sexual offenses including children. Second, to strengthen the protection of children in order to enable them to grow and live in a safe environment and a caring community,” Rep. Yedda Romualdez told the joint panel hearing.
“By establishing the crime of statutory rape to beany sexual activity with a child, of either sex, under the age of 16 – the law makes certain the punishment of those who commit such crime, without unnecessarily furthering the emotional and physical trauma of the child that may be brought about by a lengthy court proceeding or the need for any further physiological or material evidence.
This certainty of punishment, based onthe victim’s age alone, will surely be a strong deterrent to those who would even just attempt to commit such sexual offenses,” Rep. Yedda Romualdez explained.
“By strengthening the protection of children, the proposed legislation puts firmly the safety and welfare of children as a foremost concern – not only of the family – but that of the entire community. I am happy to note that the proposed Substitute Bill also seeks to educate and empower the home, the school and the community to put safeguards that will prevent any such crimes from happening in the future. Prosecution can only go as far to eradicate the crime – but ensuring that children grow up to their fullest potential requires utmost attention and affirmative action on our part,” she said.
“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,” said Rep. Yedda Romualdez.
Other authors of the measure include Deloso-Montalla, Fortun, Puno, Reps. Precious Hipolito Castelo, Manny Lopez, LRay F. Villafuerte, Jr., Maria Lourdes O. Acosta-Alba, Ruth Mariano-Hernandez, Deogracias Victor “DV” B. Savellano, Ma. Bernardita “Ditas” B. Ramos, Estrellita B. Suansing, Jocelyn Sy Limkaichong, Jorge “Patrol” Bustos, Naella B. Aguinaldo, Aleta C. Suarez, Arlene D. Brosas, France L. Castro, Sarah Jane I. Elago, Eufemia “Ka Femia” C. Cullamat, Carlos Isagani T. Zarate, Ferdinand R. Gaite, Luisa Lloren Cuaresma, Manuel F. Zubiri, “Kuya” Jose Antonio R. Sy-Alvarado, Precious Hipolito-Castelo, Jose Francisco “Kiko” B. Benitez, Aloy T. Lim, and Joy Myra S. Tambunting.
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. Under the measure, rape is committed by any person against another person or person by:
1. Inserting or causing the insertion of a person’s penis into another person’s inner or outer vaginal labia, anal orifice or mouth;
2. Inserting or causing the insertion of a finger, instrument or object, into another person’s inner or outer vaginal labia or anal orifice;
3. Placing or causing the placement of a person’s penis between, or rubbing or causing the rubbing thereof on, the breasts of anotherperson; or
4. Causing a person or persons to perform any of the above-mentioned acts even if the offender does not participate therein, under any of the following circumstances:
(a) By force, threat, intimidation, deception, coercion;
(b) By abuse of authority or moral ascendancy;
(c) By employment of means to deprive him or her of reason or render him or her unconscious;
(d)By other fraudulent machinations; or (e)When the victim is incapable of giving consent by reason of his or her physical, mental, or psychological disability or condition.