The House of Representatives approved on second reading a bill that adjusts from 12 to 16 years old the age of victims in statutory rape cases as the world observed the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Wednesday.
Authors of ten bills that were consolidated into House Bill 7836 lauded their colleagues for supporting passage of the bill as a significant contribution of the Lower House in fighting off violence against women.
The bill was jointly sponsored by the House Committees on Revision of Laws and on Welfare of Children chaired by Reps. Cheryl P. Deloso-Montalla (PDP-Laban, Zambales) and Yedda Marie K. Romualdez (Tingog Sinirangan, respectively.
HB 7836 provides for the re-definition of statutory rape by amending Act No. 3815, otherwise known as the Revised Penal Code and Republic Act 7610, also known as the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discriminatory Act.
Under the bill, the age factor of the victim in a statutory rape case is increased from 12 years old to 16 years old at the time the crime was committed, whether or not there was consent on the part of the minor.
Statutory rape is also committed on a victim over 16 years old but has physical, mental or psychological disability when sexually abused.
However, consensual, non-abusive and non-exploitative sexual activity with a minor below 16 years old may not be considered statutory rape when the alleged offender is 15 years old and the age difference between the parties does not exceed four years.
Exemption is also granted if the offender is 14 years old and the age difference between the parties does not exceed 3 years and in the case of a 13-year old offender, if the age difference does not exceed two years.
Grooming is included as a means of committing rape. The act of grooming is defined as a predatory act or pattern of acts aimed at establishing a relationship with a minor so they can manipulate, exploit and abuse them.
The bill also provides that presumption of lack of consent is presumed, thus, absence or lack of physical overt act of resistance to the commission of rape shall not be deemed as consent.
Penalty for statutory rape is life imprisonment.
Convicted persons will not qualify for the benefits of good conduct time allowance (GCTA) when the victim is under 18 years old and the offender is a parent, ascendant, stepparent or guardian.
GCTA is also denied to convicted persons if the victim is under the custody of law enforcement authorities or penal institution or if the rape was committed in full view of the spouse, parent or children of the victim.
Authors have also rejected valid marriage or reconciliation as a reason to extinguish the criminal action for rape.
A new provision mandates that it will be the duty of health care providers, teachers, guidance counselors social workers and any local or national officer to report to the Department of Social Welfare and Development incidents of rape and other sexual offenses.