MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte has signed a law raising the age of sexual consent to 16 from 12, which lawmakers said was necessary to protect children from exploitation and abuse.
Republic Act 11648, which Duterte signed last March 4 and Malacañang released on Monday, amended the Revised Penal Code to read as follows:
"The seduction of a minor, sixteen and over but under eighteen years of age, committed by any person in public authority… or any person who, in any capacity, shall be entrusted with the education or custody of the minor seduced shall be punished by prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods."
The seduction of a minor over 16 but under 18 "shall be punished by arresto mayor."
The exemption from criminal liability covers partners who are both 16 years old and below, with an age difference of not more than 3 years. Their sexual act should be proven to be "consensual, non-abusive, and non-exploitative," stated the law.
It said the exemption would not apply if the victim is under 13 years old.
WHY IS THIS LAW NEEDED?
Before the passage of RA 11648, the Philippines had the lowest age of consent in Asia, and one of the lowest in the world, said Sen. Risa Hontiveros.
Sen. Richard Gordon argued keeping the age of sexual consent at 12 "endangers children and makes them more vulnerable to sexual abuse."
"How can a 12-year-old give consent to such an act? Any way we see it, a 12-year-old, in the strictest definition, is a child," Hontiveros argued in August last year.
Citing a 2015 National Baseline Study on Violence Against Children, Gordon said 1 in every 5 children in the Philippines ages 13 to 17 said they experienced sexual violence, while 1 in 25 suffered from forced consummated sex during childhood.
Hontiveros said raising the age of sexual consent was "even made more urgent given the rise in cases of violence against women and children during this pandemic."
From March 15 to Nov. 13, 2020, there were 13,923 reported cases of violence against women and their children, 4,747 of which were cases wherein the children themselves were the victims, said the senator, citing data from the Philippine Commission on Women.
The new law also amends a provision on child prostitution under Republic Act 7610, also known as the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act.
"Children, whether male or female, who for money, profit, or any other consideration or due to the coercion or influence of any adult, syndicate or group, indulge in sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct, are deemed to be children exploited in prostitution or other sexual abuse," reads the amendment.
Gordon said it was important to amend RA 7610 because it applied to certain individuals, "for women, for example, and not for men or for gay personalities."
"That's why we're having a legislative reform on rape, especially for the protection of our girls and boys, and others with different sexual preference from sexual violence," he said.
Sexual intercourse or lascivious act with a child under 16 years old shall be punished with "reclusion temporal in its medium period," RA 11648 said. It added any person who shall engage in child trafficking shall face "reclusion temporal to reclusion perpetua."