Hontiveros bats for Senate approval of bill on statutory rape

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday expressed hope that the Senate will also be able to pass within the year the bill that would raise the age for determining statutory rape.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros (Albert Calvelo/Senate PRIB)

Members of the House of Representative passed on third and final reading Tuesday, December 1, their House Bill No. 7836, which seeks to increase the age of consent from the current 12 years old to 16 years old.

A similar proposal is also pending in the Senate. Last October, the joint committee of Justice and Human Rights, and Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality approved the consolidated bill on the matter.

Hontiveros, chairwoman of the Senate Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality and one of the authors of the measure, said she was "very happy" on the House's approval of the bill.

She believed the measure will also garner a strong support from senators especially considering that an increase in domestic violence and abuse has been reported during the COVID-19 outbreak, while families were forced to stay at home.

"Siguro damang-dama naman naming mga senador 'yong hirap ng pamilya, lalo na ng mga batang babae (I think all of the senators feel the suffering of families, especially young girls) under pandemic quarantine conditions, na tumaas talaga hindi lang yung online sexual exploitation of children, pero 'yong domestic abuse against women (which indeed increased not only the incidents of online sexual exploitation of children, but also domestic abuse)," Hontiveros said.

"So I think in the context of Christmas spirit…I'm hopeful na makahabol kami sa parliamentary status sa House at maipasa ito (that we can keep up with the parliamentary status in the House and pass this bill) within the year," she said.

Eight bills were filed in Senate to propose the increase of the age of consent in determining statutory rape. During the committee hearing, senators agreed to set it at age 16.

They also agreed to include a "Romeo and Juliet" provision in the bill allowing consensual relationship between teenagers.

Hontiveros said the enactment of the measure would be "very important" to protect teenage girls and boys against rape and teenage pregnancy.

"Itong pagamyenda natin (This amendment) places consent, or the lack of it, front and center of the crime of rape," she said.