The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved on third and final reading a bill raising the age to determine statutory rape from below 12 to below 16, regardless of sexual orientation of the offenders and victims.
The chamber approved House Bill 7836 by a 207-3 vote. The bill sets the age of sexual consent to 16 and amends the 23-year-old Anti-Rape Law, as well as the Revised Penal Code.
Tingog party-list Rep. Yedda Marie K. Romualdez, chairperson of the House Committee on Welfare of Children and one of the principal authors, welcomed the bill's approval.
"This progress means a step closer to the justice we have been fighting for our children victimized by heartless individuals and the gap in present laws.”
“I appeal to our colleagues in the Senate: let us pass this bill as a gift for and a commitment to the safety of our children. Definitely, no children should be left without sufficient protection especially from rape. Child rape is an ugly and painful reality that we must collectively confront and address immediately and decisively. But it is not enough that we are indignant,” Romualdez said.
“Our indignation must translate into action, and concrete measures to stop it.”
Romualdez said setting a minimum age of sexual consent is the most important and critical criteria in protecting minors from sexual violence since the present Anti-Rape Law establishes the age of sexual consent at 12 years.
“This means any sexual intercourse with a minor who has not reached the age of twelve is automatically regarded as rape, regardless of whether they say or appeared to have voluntarily engaged in the sexual act. However, the moment that child reaches the exact age of twelve, the law assumes that the child is mature enough to give consent to another person for any sexual activity,” Romualdez said.
“Every year, thousands of children and teenagers fall prey to sexual abuse and exploitation, the prevalence of which has motivated me – as a mother, as a woman and as a legislator – to take a closer look at the existing laws that aim to protect them from sexual abuse, and to understand more fully how we can improve and strengthen them,” she added.
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. A penalty of life imprisonment will also be imposed against the offenders under the measure.
“By establishing the crime of statutory rape to be any 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,” Romualdez explained.
Aside from these, the 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” and “gives no distinction to the sexual orientation of the offender or the victim.”
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 also provide that sexual intercourse with children below 12 years old is illegal and tantamount to rape.
Sexual activity with a person below 18 years of age may constitute child abuse and exploitation.
But Romualdez lamented 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 proposed law, rape is committed by any person against another 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 another person; 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.
HB 7836 is a consolidation of 10 bills proposed by Romualdez, House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, and Representatives Cheryl Deloso-Montalla, Lawrence Fortun, Manny Lopez, Roberto Puno, Precious Hipolito Castelo, LRay Villafuerte, Jr., Maria Lourdes Acosta-Alba, Ruth Mariano-Hernandez, Deogracias, Victor Savellano, Ma. Bernardita Ramos, Estrellita Suansing, Jocelyn Sy Limkaichong, Jorge Bustos, Naella Aguinaldo, Aleta Suarez, Arlene Brosas, France Castro, Sarah Jane Elago, Eufemia Cullamat, Carlos Isagani Zarate, Ferdinand Gaite, Luisa Lloren Cuaresma, Manuel Zubiri, Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado, Jose Francisco Benitez, Aloy Lim, and Joy Myra Tambunting.
In the Senate, counterpart bills seeking to raise the age of sexual consent and determination of statutory rape to 16 years old were approved at the committee level last October 1.