MANILA--The House of Representatives has approved on second reading House Bill 7836, which provides stronger protection against rape, sexual exploitation and abuse, including increasing the age for committing statutory rape.
The approval, which came in an ayes and nayes vote during a plenary session Wednesday, paves the way for the House to give final approval next week.
In a press release, Gabriela Women’s Party welcomed the approval, noting that the House adopted all major amendments it filed, including the following:
- Redefining of the term rape;
- Enumeration of circumstances, where there is a presumption of lack of consent;
- Inclusion of cases where there are non-penile penetration;
- Repeal of 266-C, or the forgiveness clause if the victim and perpetrator are married;
- Repeal of 266-D, or the necessity of overt physical force and physical resistance to constitute as rape
- Increase of the age of sexual consent from 12 to 16;
- Increase of the age for determining the commission of statutory rape from 12 to 16;
Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas said "the issue of consent is often the reason why most suspects of rape are not prosecuted properly."
"Rape has its origins in power, control and is linked to issues of not only gender but also social inequalities. Most victims of rape had been forced to submit to the actions of the perpetrator because the perpetrator is a person who is in a position of authority," Brosas said.
“That is why, when they use their position, power and influence, it creates a situation wherein the accuser will be forced, victimized because of the use of power, influence, and moral ascendancy.
"This is a huge step in raising the consciousness of the Filipino people. Sexual violence should be seen as a public, national issue and not just a problem of an individual. We look forward to the enactment of the amendments and hopefully move forward in the approval of more pro-women legislation."
In a separate press release before the voting, Agusan del Norte Rep. Lawrence Fortun said the bill provides for an increase in the age of determining the commission of statutory rape.
“We included a graduated close-in-age exemption to protect minors in non-abusive and non-exploitative relationships from the harsh penalties of statutory rape,” he explained.
Fortun also listed that, among the salient features of the bill, is the provision of a clearer and more responsive definition of rape that covers forms of perversions not contemplated in the Revised Penal Code or the Anti Rape Law of 1997.
It likewise seeks to include the concept of grooming.
The bill shifts the burden of proof on the offender in the case of rape as it provides the presumption of the lack of consent on the part of the victim.
In order to expedite and ensure the prosecution of violators, the bill expands the list of persons who may file rape complaints and enforces mandatory reporting of rape cases within 48 hours.
It also prohibits the submission of affidavits of desistance and amicable settlements.
Judges, prosecutors, and court officers are also directed to safeguard the privacy and confidentiality of rape proceedings, and as such, are mandated to hold close door proceedings.
“Ang estado ng sexual violence sa Pilipinas ay lubos na nakapanlulumo, lalo na para sa ating kabataan. Ayon sa 2016 National Baseline Study on Violence against Children in the Philippines, 17.1 porsyento ng mga edad 13 hanggang 18 ay nakaranas ng karahasang sekswal habang 3.2 porsyento ng mga bata at kabataan ay nagiging biktima ng rape,” Fortun said.