Senators are again pushing to raise of the age of consent to 16 years old for determining statutory rape as a measure to address the increasing incidence of teenage pregnancy in the Philippines.
During the Senate Committee on Finance’s deliberation of the proposed 2021 budget of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and its attached agencies, lawmakers inquired about the government’s efforts to curb the rise in number of pregnancies among teens.
It was then that Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel stated his proposal to raise the age of statutory rape from the current 12 years old to 16 years old. He said the Philippines is one of countries that have the lowest age of consent.
“This means anyone can have sex with a 14-year-old and get away with it…So that [proposal] would help at least prevent these incidences from happening,” Zubiri said.
Commission on Population (POPCOM) executive director Undersecretary Juan Antonio Perez III said the agency supports the move, especially since they have observed a significant rate of pregnancies among teenage girls who get involved in relationships with older men.
“(In) many of these pregnancies among 10- to 17-year-old girls in particular, their partners are older than them. About 90 prcent have partners that are older than them,” Perez reported, citing Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data.
“So there is an element of powerplay, of exploitation, here because it’s older men who are the partners of these young children,” he added.
Senator Nancy Binay interjected: “Dapat ata hindi tama ‘yong term na ‘partner’, mas bagay ‘yong predator (The term ‘partner’ should be incorrect, ‘predator’ is more fitting).”
“Predator talaga ‘yan (They are indeed predators)! In other countries, regardless of the love angle, it’s still statutory rape no matter what,” Zubiri agreed.
“We have to stop these predators from — I have a 12-year-old daughter you know,” he also said. “Technically musmos pa mga ‘yan at nabobola nang mga predators (they are still young and predators are taking advantage) that’s why they need to be protected,” he later explained to reporters.
Perez said the proposed raising of the age of statutory rape “might scare off these predators.”
More pregnant teens
Perez said that despite the enactment of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Act in 2012, the POPCOM still saw a continued increase in the number of minors giving birth.
“Since the (enforcement of the) RPRH Law from 2013 to 2018, when we have the data, teen pregnancy among minors, that is below 18 years old, have been increasing,” he said, citing PSA’s 2018 civil registry report that recorded 62,000 minors who gave birth.
The POPCOM head also noted the doubling in the number of pregnancies among 10- to 14 year-old children from 1,000 in 2007 to 2,200 in 2018.
Roughly 40 to 50 10-year-old children are giving birth every year, Perez said.
He also said that the Department of Social Welfare and Development also saw an increasing number of adolescent children in conditional cash transfer (CCT) household beneficiaries who get pregnant.
“It’s a reason for them to drop out. So what happens is, these children are removed from the CCT because they drop out of school and it’s a condition that they have to stay in school,” he said, citing the conditions under the DSWD’s program.
While efforts are being undertaken to address this trend, “still 11 percent of all births in the country are happening among girls, women below 20 years old.
“That percentage has not changed in the last few years. So it is still a major problem. We have 60,000 minors starting families every year, they are vulnerable to economic, social pressures and they should be considered a vulnerable group,” he said.
Meawhile, in the POPCOM’s Young Fertility Survey, Perez said they also found the increase in terms of premarital sex among young adults aged 15 to 19, from 20 percent in 2003 to 31 percent in 2013.