Senators vouch for bill raising age of sexual consent

Published August 26, 2021, 10:04 AM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Senators are vouching that the passage into law of the bill raising the age of sexual consent to determine statutory rape and other acts of sexual abuse and exploitation will eventually leave an enduring legacy for children.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros said that as a mother, she is disgusted that the current state of the country’s laws subjects a 13-year old to prove in court that they did not consent to the sexual act and with some being asked if they enjoyed it.

“As a policymaker, I am pleased that we now take advantage of a historical opportunity to correct this. The 18th Congress will be the Congress waylaid by the pandemic, that faced unprecedented challenges,” Hontiveros noted in her speech before the Senate plenary on Wednesday, Aug. 25.

“But with this measure, along with other measures such as the anti-online sexual abuse and exploitation of children law, which this chamber passed on third reading, I hope that we will also be the Congress who leaves an enduring legacy for our children,” she further said.

On Wednesday, Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, sponsored Senate Bill No. 2332, under Committee Report No. 279, or the bill which seeks to increase the age for determining statutory rape, increasing the age of sexual consent from 12 to 16 years.

The bill seeks to amend Republic Act No. 3815 or the Revised Penal Code, RA 8353, or the Anti-Rape Law of 1997, and RA 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act.

“Rape is a very violent crime, especially when performed against a minor, Mr. President. That is why it is important that we amend the old law. That’s why we’re having a legislative reform on rape, especially for the protection of our girls and boys, and others with different sexual preference from sexual violence,” Gordon said.

Sen. Pia Cayetano, a co-sponsor of the measure, said she is thankful that the measure has now reached the Senate plenary.

Cayetano said the idea of a restoring a girl’s honor by marrying her rapist will now become a thing of the past.

“That was the thinking. It’s terrible, I know. But that’s how people of the past thought…We cannot change the way people thought and acted in the past. But we can change our laws to prevent this kind of thinking and behavior today. It’s now time we change our laws to protect our children,” Cayetano stressed.

The senator also said the passage of the bill into law is even made more urgent given the rise in cases of violence against women and children during this pandemic.

She pointed out, data from the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) showed that from March 15 to Nov. 13, 2020, there have been 13,923 reported cases of violence against women and their children. Of the number, 4,747 were cases wherein the children themselves were the victims.

“Our current law on the age of sexual consent takes away our children’s right to be children and to enjoy their childhood. Let’s do the right thing and amend this 90-year-old law. Let’s change the narrative for our children,” Cayetano said.