Senate urged: Expedite passage of bill raising age to determine statutory rape

Senate urged: Expedite passage of bill raising age to determine statutory rape
Senate President Vicente Sotto III presides over the continuation of the Committee of the Whole inquiry into government’s COVID-19 vaccination program on January 15, 2021. Sen. Francis Tolentino (left) and Sen. Panfilo Lacson (right) are pictured beside him.
Henzberg Austria / Senate PRIB

MANILA, Philippines — An umbrella group of child rights advocates on Tuesday called on the Senate to expedite proceedings for bills that seek to raise the age determining statutory rape from below 12 years to below 16 years. 

The House of Representatives last Dec. 1, 2020, approved the End Child Rape Bill but at least five counterpart measures in the upper chamber are still pending at the Committee on Justice and Human Rights. 

"Every single day that the passage of this important bill is delayed is another day of exposing Filipino children to the dangers of the archaic provisions of the Revised Penal Code on statutory rape," Child Rights Network (CRN) convenor Romeo Dongeto said in a press release. "Child rights advocates all throughout the nation are willing to extend our help, support, and expertise to our senators to speed up deliberating the pending bills." 

Although Congress just resumed its session on Monday, May 17, Dongeto noted that senators have "only a few days left" to pass a consolidated version of their bills before they adjourn on June 4. 

"Yet, we think there is enough time for our esteemed senators to study the proposed bill expeditiously, and internalize the voluminous studies, evidence-based reports, and community-level consultations that served as basis for drafting this bill," he said. 

"We call on our senators, particularly Sen. Richard Gordon [who is chairman of] the Justice Committee, to prioritize this bill." 

The House bill, Dongeto added, was crafted in consultation "with advocates, survivors, and family court judges," and includes the following key provisions: 

  • Increasing the age to determine statutory rape from below 12 to below

  • Equalizing the protection for victims of rape, regardless of gender 

  • Adopting the “close in age exemption,” which serves to reduce or eliminate the penalty of the crime in cases where the couple's age difference is minor

  • Removing the “marriage as forgiveness” exemption where the perpetrator is freed of legal responsibility if the perpetrator marries the person they raped 

READ: Child marriages still happen. CHR says a ban can help curb teen pregnancies, abuse

Of the five bills seeking to increase the age determining statutory rape, all but one propose raising it to below16 years. Senate Bill No. 739, filed by Sen. Win Gatchalian, proposes raising the minimum age of consent to 18 years. 

A Change.org petition started by CRN calling on Congress to raise the age determining statutory rape to at least 16 years old has amassed 147,704 signatures as of this posting. 

— Bella Perez-Rubio 






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