MANILA - Voting 207-3, the House of Representatives on Tuesday approved on final reading House Bill 7836 which raises the age for determining statutory rape to 16 years old, strengthening laws against rape and sexual abuse.
The proposed law sets the age of sexual consent to 16, amending the 23-year-old Anti-Rape Law, as well as the Revised Penal Code.
Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas justified her support for the measure.
“It has been almost a decade since Gabriela Women’s Party first filed this measure, and it has been re-filed several times. In fact, former Gabriela Representatives Emmi De Jesus and Luz Ilagan have filed House Bill 6170 in 2012, which would provide for clearer instances or situations as basis for the filing of rape cases," Brosas said.
"The issue of consent has been one of the reasons why most suspects of rape are not prosecuted properly. In the hope of addressing the inadequacies in the law, Gabriela Women's Party's proposed amendments that will give a fighting chance to the victims to achieve the justice they deserve.“
For Brosas, the amendments highlight the essence of the crime of rape, which is lack of consent, by:
- broadening the definition of rape
- the enumeration of circumstances where there is presumption of lack of consent
- the inclusion of cases where there are non-penile penetration
- repealing 266-C of Act No. 3815, or the forgiveness clause if the victim and perpetrator are married
- repealing 266-D of Act No. 3815, or the necessity of overt physical force and physical resistance to constitute as rape
- increasing the age of sexual consent from 12 to 16
- increasing the age for determining the commission of statutory rape from 12 to 16
Tingog party-list Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez, chairperson of the House Committee on Welfare of Children and one of the principal authors, appealed to the Senate to pass the bill.
“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," she 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.”
Counterpart bills in the Senate were approved at the committee level last October 1.
“Every year, thousands of children and teenagers fall prey to sexual abuse and exploitation, the prevalence of which has motivated me – as a mother, as a woman and as a legislator – to take a closer look at the existing laws that aim to protect them from sexual abuse, and to understand more fully how we can improve and strengthen them,” said Romualdez.
“By establishing the crime of statutory rape to be any sexual activity with a child, of either sex, under the age of 16 - the law makes certain the punishment of those who commit such crime, without unnecessarily furthering the emotional and physical trauma of the child that may be brought about by a lengthy court proceeding or the need for any further physiological or material evidence,” she added.
The bill also “seeks to educate and empower the home, the school and the community to put safeguards that will prevent any such crimes from happening in the future” and “gives no distinction to the sexual orientation of the offender or the victim.”
Under the bill, rape is committed by:
1. Inserting or causing the insertion of a person’s penis into another person’s inner or outer vaginal labia, anal orifice or mouth;
2. Inserting or causing the insertion of a finger, instrument or object into another person’s inner or outer vaginal labia or anal orifice;
3. Placing or causing the placement of a person’s penis between, or rubbing or causing the rubbing thereof on, the breasts of another person; or
4. Causing a person or persons to perform any of the above-mentioned acts even if the offender does not participate therein, under any of the following circumstances:
(a) By force, threat, intimidation, deception, coercion;
(b) By abuse of authority or moral ascendancy;
(c) By employment of means to deprive him or her of reason or render him or her unconscious;
(d) By other fraudulent machinations; or
(e) When the victim is incapable of giving consent by reason of his or her physical, mental, or psychological disability or condition.
HB 7836 is a consolidation of 10 bills proposed by Brosas, Romualdez, and several other lawmakers.