The House plenary gave the thumbs up to House Bill 137, or the proposed “Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act” that will amend the current Anti-Child Abuse Law (Republic Act 7610).
New penalties for child abusers OK’d
Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) - February 19, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Voting 228-0, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading last Monday a bill that provides stiffer penalties for violators of the country’s law on child abuse, exploitation and discrimination. 

The House plenary gave the thumbs up to House Bill 137, or the proposed “Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act” that will amend the current Anti-Child Abuse Law (Republic Act 7610). 

HB 137 aims to deter exploitation of children by imposing stiffer and more severe penalties for perpetrators and further promote the child’s best interest by strengthening development and protection programs. If enacted, those found guilty of involvement in the production of obscene publications and indecent shows will be slapped with a penalty of up to 17 years and four months in prison. 

If they used the child as a performer, and the subject or seller and distributor is below 12 years of age, then the penalty would now be reclusion perpetua (life term or maximum of 40 years imprisonment). 

Guardians or ascendants found to have caused the child to be employed or to participate in any obscene play, scene, act, movie or show will be meted with a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. 

Anybody who will also be found to have been involved in child labor practices will be penalized with a minimum of one year to six years in prison, with a fine of not less than P100,000 to a maximum of P300,000. 

Those who employ or facilitate the employment of children in hazardous work will also be made to pay a fine of not less than P200,000 but not more than P1 million, or imprisonment of not less than 12 years and one day to 20 years, or both.  

As for exploited children in indigenous cultural communities, those found guilty will be slapped with a penalty of two years, four months and one day to four years and two months in prison and a fine of not less than P50,000 but not more than P100,000.  

The offender will also have to undergo a re-education and re-orientation program on indigenous people’s culture.  

The measure also mandates the Department of Labor and Employment as well as the Department of Social Welfare and Development to issue the necessary implementing rules and regulations for the measure.  

Meanwhile, Rep. Yedda Romualdez of party-list Tingog also sought an increase in the age of statutory rape victims from 12 to 16.

“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,” she said, referring to HB 4160 she filed last year.

The bill also seeks to increase the penalty for offenders to life imprisonment.

“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 Romualdez who heads the House committee on the welfare of children. 

She stressed that “the establishment of a minimum age of sexual content is a critical component in shielding minors from sexual violence.”

“Minors below 16 years old are still considered without power to resist to give their genuine and fully informed consent to any sexual activity,” Romualdez explained.

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

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

But Romualdez noted that the current age for determining the crime of statutory rape is not compliant with the international average as shown by a 2015 report released by the UN 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 added.

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