by Cecille Suerte Felipe, Paolo Romero – The Philippine Star, 23 Sep 2021
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate has approved on second reading a bill raising the age of sexual consent to 16 years old to help prevent statutory rape.
Passed on Tuesday night was Senate Bill 2332, which seeks to amend the Revised Penal Code to raise the age for determining statutory rape from 12 to 16 years old, following lengthy debates on the measure.
The bill was principally authored by Sen. Risa Hontiveros and sponsored by Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate committee on justice and human rights. Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri is a co-author.
Apart from increasing the age of sexual consent, the bill also amends the language of the law to be gender-responsive and to reflect that rape is committed by a person who shall have carnal knowledge against any person, rather than the previous definition that rape is between a man and a woman only.
The bill is a long-awaited legislative move, as the country currently has one of the lowest ages for determining statutory rape, second only to Niger, at 11 years old, Zubiri pointed out.
“As the father of three young kids, this is a really important bill for me. I know many parents and groups are waiting for the passage of this measure,” Zubiri said in mixed Filipino and English.
Hontiveros said there are too many horror stories coming from child rights advocates about victims being asked to prove in court that they did not consent to the sexual act, “with some even being asked if they enjoyed it.”
“That’s why victims often just keep quiet. As a mother, I am disgusted that the current state of our laws subjects a 13-year-old to this kind of cruelty. As a policymaker, I am pleased that we now take advantage of a historical opportunity to correct this,” Hontiveros said.
Although Congress was “waylaid by the pandemic” and “faced unprecedented challenges,” she said it was able to pass the bill as well as the Anti-Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children Act.