House panel approves bill imposing stiffer penalties against child abusers

By Ben Rosario

The House Committee on the Welfare of Children has unanimously approved a bill that will amend a two-decade old law and impose stiffer penalties for child abuse, exploitation and discrimination.

In a recent committee hearing of the House panel chaired by Tingog Siniringan partylist Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez, the committee agreed to consolidate four separate measures containing proposals for the amendment of Republic Act 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act.

The Joint Session of the Senate and the House of Representatives on the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao commences in the Plenary of the Batasang Pambansa on December 13, 2017. (ALVIN KASIBAN / MANILA BULLETIN) (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Authors of the bills are Deputy Speaker Michael Romero (1PaCMAN Partylist); Deputy Speaker Aurelio Gonzales Jr. (PDP-Laban, Pampanga); Deputy Majority Leader Wilter “Sharky” Palma (Lakas-CMD, Zamboanga-Sibutay); Reps. Rufus Rodriguez (CDP, Cagayan de Oro City) and Geraldine Roman (PDP-Laban, Bataan).

Romero said the bill provides for stiffer penalties against child abuse offenses as part of preventive measures that would prevent violations of the law.

Passed in 1992, RA 7610 requires the urgent amendments as there remain many instances of abuse and exploitation committed against minors.

“This bill gives the law more teeth,” said Rodriguez.

Under the bill, instead of the current penalty of prision mayor or 12 years imprisonment for the crime of obscene publications and indecent shows the imposable punishment will be reclusion temporal or over 12 years but not less than 20 years confinement in a national penitentiary.

Life imprisonment shall be imposed if the victim is below 12 years old and exploited as a performer of lewd and indecent shows.

Section 10 of RA 7610 was also recommended for amendment.

This provision of the law refers to acts of neglect, abuse, cruelty, exploitation and other conditions prejudicial to the child’s development.

Imposable penalty under the bill would be reclusion temporal or minimum 12 years imprisonment, from the current penalty of prision mayor or less than 12 years prison term.

Furthermore, any person who shall induce, deliver or offer a minor to any one prohibited by the Act to keep or have in his company a minor shall suffer the penalty of prision mayor in its maximum period and a fine of not less than P400,000.

Should the perpetrator be an ascendant, stepparent or guardian of the minor, the penalty to be imposed shall be reclusion temporal in its medium period and a fine of not less than P500,000, and the loss of parental authority over the minor.

Moreover, any person who shall use, coerce, force or intimidate a street child or any other child to (1) beg or use begging as a means of living; (2) act as conduit or middlemen in drug trafficking or pushing; or (3) conduct any illegal activities, shall suffer the penalty of reclusion temporal to reclusion perpetua.