House OKs bill raising statutory rape age

Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Voting 207-3, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading yesterday a bill that will amend the country’s rape law and raise the age of statutory rape from 12 to 16.

Lawmakers voted to grant their stamp of approval to House Bill 7836, which sets the age of sexual consent to 16 and amends the 23-year-old Anti-Rape Law of 1997 (Republic Act 8353) as well as the Revised Penal Code.

“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,” said Tingog party-list Rep. Yedda Romualdez, chairperson of the House committee on the welfare of children.

In common law jurisdictions, statutory rape is non-forcible 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.

“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,” Romualdez said.

“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. Our indignation must translate into action, and concrete measures to stop it,” she added.

Romualdez stressed that the establishment of 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 sets the age of sexual consent at 12 years.

“This means any sexual intercourse with a minor who has not reached the age of 12 is automatically regarded as rape, regardless of whether they say or appeared to have voluntarily engaged in the sexual act,” she said.

If the bill is passed into law, any adult who has sexual intercourse with a minor below 16 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.

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