More than 300,000 individuals have signed the online petition of Child’s Rights Network (CRN) for the immediate passage of a bill that would raise the age of statutory rape from the present below 12 years old to below 16.
Pending before the Senate is Senate Bill 2332 on “Increasing the Age of Statutory Rape,” now popularly known as “End Child Rape Bill.”
CRN, the largest alliance of organizations pushing for children’s rights legislation in the Philippines, said that statutory rape is a crime that involves sexual contact with a person below the age of sexual consent.
In the Philippines, it said, Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code, and as maintained by the Anti-Rape Law of 1997, provides that the crime of statutory rape only covers children below the age of 12.
It pointed out that the provision has not been changed for over 90 years, and, “sadly, perpetrators have been abusing this loophole for years.”
The CRN said: “We cannot emphasize enough: 12 is too low to determine the crime of statutory rape. Imagine implementing a 91-year-old statute up until now – to the great detriment of our children. The Philippines remains to have the lowest age of sexual consent in Asia and one of the lowest in the world.”
It warned that “time is indeed running out” for the passage of the “End Child Rape Bill,” especially since the whole nation’s attention will be shifted in just a few months to the upcoming May 2022 elections.
Acting on this bill now may be our only chance to pass this landmark legislation,” it pointed out.
“We appeal to our Senators to join their colleagues in the House of Representatives who already passed on third and final reading their version of the bill – House Bill 7836 – back in December 2020. If passed into law, this piece of legislation will immediately leave a lasting positive impact on the lives of Filipino children,” CRN stressed.
If the bill is passed into a law, there would be important new provisions, it said.
Among other things, the bill would remove the “marriage as forgiveness” exemption, wherein the rapist is freed of any legal responsibility if the rapist marries the victim.
At the same time, it said the present law states that rape against boys is only considered as “rape by sexual assault” which carries a lesser sentence of six to 12 years imprisonment, while rape against girls is penalized with a life sentence.
Through the “End Child Rape Bill,” this gender discrimination would be amended and both boys and girls would be provided equal protection, it said.
CRN emphasized that the passage of the bill has become more crucial than ever during this coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic which restricted Filipinos’ right to travel and mobility.
“Because of socio-economic hardships, children have become more vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation,” it lamented.
“We earnestly hope that before the next celebration of World Children’s Day on November 20, the 18th Congress will already have the bill for the President’s signature. Maximum protection is the best gift that our lawmakers can give to Filipino children,” it stressed.