A bill seeking to raise the age for the crime of statutory rape against minors from 12 to 16 in a bid to provide stronger protection for children has been filed in the Philippine House of Representatives on Thursday, August 29.
House Bill (HB) 4160 metes a penalty of life imprisonment for statutory rape against minors who are under 16 years old, regardless of the sexual orientation of the offenders or the victims, according to Tingog Partylist Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez, chairperson of the House committee on the welfare of children.
“If this measure is passed into law, any adult who has sexual intercourse with a minor below 16 years old is guilty of rape. Even if the minor has given his or her consent to the sexual act, it is still rape,” Romualdez told reporters.
“The sexual orientation of the offender is of no importance. Men and women, even members of the LGBT community, may be charged with statutory rape. No one is above the law,” she added.
Statutory rape, in common law jurisdictions, is non-forcible sexual activity wherein one of the individuals is below the age of consent or the age required to legally consent to the act.
Current laws in the country provide that sexual intercourse with children below 12 years old is illegal and tantamount to rape; meanwhile, sexual activity with a person below 18 years of age may constitute child abuse and exploitation.
Citing a 2015 report from the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Romualdez pointed out that the Philippines was not compliant with the international average involving other countries.
“The establishment of a minimum age of sexual consent is a critical component in shielding minors from sexual violence. Minors who are below 16 years old are still considered without power to resist to give their genuine and fully informed consent to any sexual activity,” she said.
Additionally, HB 4160 redefined the crimes of qualified seduction, simple seduction, forcible abduction, and consented abduction in relation to minors as victims.
Under the bill, qualified seduction is now “seduction of a minor 16 years and under 18 years of age, committed by any person in public authority, priest or religious engaged in legitimate religious vocation or calling, domestic, guardian, teacher or any person who, in any capacity, shall be entrusted with the education or custody of the minor seduced” with a penalty of prison correctional in its medium and maximum periods.
Simple seduction is “seduction of a minor of good reputation 16 years but under 18 years of age, committed by means of deceit,” which is punishable by arresto mayor that ranges from a day to half a year.
Forcible abduction is “abduction of any person against his or her will and with lewd designs,” which is punishable by reclusion temporal.
Consented abduction is “abduction of a minor 16 years and under 18 years of age, carried out with his or her consent and with lewd designs,” which shall be punished by the penalty of prison in its minimum and medium periods.