MANILA - The time is ripe to revisit the country’s sexual harassment laws and increase penalties, Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said on Sunday.
The move will serve “both as a deterrent, and as proof of government’s unwavering commitment to protecting and upholding gender rights,” Pimentel said in a statement.
Noting that the Anti Sexual Harassment Act and Violence Against Women and Children Law were passed over a decade ago, he said:
“We must update and toughen these laws to be able to adjust to the demands of the times."
“The Philippines has been a trendsetter and pioneer in women’s rights. We have produced 2 female Presidents. We granted Filipino women the right of suffrage in 1937, even before many of the modern republics in Asia were born,” he added.
“It’s incumbent upon us today to protect not only women’s political rights but their civil rights as well, those that protect the dignity of their persons.”
Pimentel said focus on sexual harassment and women’s rights sharpened lately with reports of abuse in show business and sports in the US, which dragged previously respected names like Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.
Closer to home, meanwhile, Dr. Carmen Valdes, president of the Assumption College all-female educational institution, revealed in a book released this month that she was sexually abused as a child, the Senate President said.
Given these events, Pimentel said he plans to direct the appropriate Senate committees to look into increasing the penalties for sexual harassment and abuse.
“For example, under the 1995 Harassment Law, those convicted only face imprisonment not more than six months or a fine of not more than P20,000. We should update these penalties to reflect modern realities," he said.
"As a lawyer and legislator, I consider sexual harassment as one of the sickest and most deplorable offenses that can be committed because it goes into the very dignity of the victim.”