MANILA - Vice president and presidential aspirant Leni Robredo said on Thursday she would push for raising the minimum age of sexual consent from 12 years old to 16 years old.
In a statement, Robredo's camp said that 16 is the commonly accepted age of consent by international standards. It added that the Philippines was obligated to legislate to protect children, as it ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990.
“Priority ko na i-angat to 16 years old ang age of sexual consent. Anumang anggulong tingnan, bata ‘yung 12 years na nasa batas ngayon,” Robredo said in a social media post.
(My priority is to raise the age of sexual consent to 16 years old. No matter from which angle you look at it, the 12 year old person currently indicated in the law is a child.)
According to Robredo's camp, the Philippines has the lowest age of consent in Asia and one of the lowest in the world. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child defines a child as a person under the age of 18.
The vice president's camp also said that from 2015 to 2017, most victims of rape and child incest were between the ages of 14 and under 18, citing Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) data. These ages are above the minimum age set by Republic Act No. 8353 or the 1997 Anti-Rape Law of under 12 years old.
“Ang bata, napupwersa, nako-coerce ng mas matanda, at traumatic experience na kailangan pang i-prove na statutory rape ang pinagdaanan ng ganoon kamurang edad. Dapat baguhin ito,” Robredo said.
(A child can still be forced, coerced by someone older. And it's also a traumatic experience to prove that someone that age went through statutory rape. This should be changed.)
Robredo's remark comes after both chambers of Congress ratified last month the bicameral conference committee report on the bill which seeks to raise the age of sexual consent to 16. It also gives children more protection against rape and acts of sexual abuse. The measure only needs the signature of President Rodrigo Duterte to become law.
The vice president's camp also said that she was firm against lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12 years old.
It cited studies showing that children below the age of 15 were unable to fully comprehend and discern between right and wrong.
“Below the age of 15, responsibility ito ng mga magulang. Kapag tiningnan natin na at the age of 12, puwede nang maging kriminal ‘yung bata, imagine-nin na lang po natin ‘yung mga anak natin noong 12 years old sila—wala pang kaalam-alam sa buhay,” Robredo said in 2019.
(A child is the responsibility of the parents when he/she is below the age of 15 years old. If a child can be considered a criminal at the age of 12, let's imagine our own children when they were 12 years old. They don't know anything about life yet at that age.)
The vice president also said that if the minimum age of criminal responsibility was lowered, the weak justice system in the country would put children in conflict with the law, especially those from poor families, at a disadvantage.