DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Davao City Councilor Avegayle Dalodo Ortiz, Chair of the Committee on Children, Women and Family Relations, asked the City Council to pass a resolution supporting the pending Senate Bill increasing the age for determining statutory rape to provide stronger protection for children.
During the City Council session on Tuesday, Ortiz said the Senate Bill 1575 seeks to increase the age of consent to sexual relations to 18 years old to provide stronger protection for children as they lack or are unable to give their consent clearly.
Under Philippine law, an adult having sexual relation with a minor as young as 12 years old is not considered statutory rape, or an act constituting automatic rape.
Among the countries in Asia, the Philippines has the lowest age to determine statutory rape and one of the lowest in the world.
Philippines has its lowest age of 12 years old while neighboring countries like South Korea (20), Indonesia (16), Malaysia (16), Singapore (16), China (15), Thailand (15), Vietnam (18) and Bahrain (21).
“By reason of this lower age of sexual consent, there are predators that commit child rape and they are not prosecuted under rape law and instead are imposed of lesser penalties,” said Ortiz in her privilege speech.
According to the Philippine National Police, there was a 48 percent increase in reported cases of child rape, including incest and attempted rape. While every 62 minutes, rape happens in the Philippines with about 7 out of 10 rape victim are children.
On July 17, members of Child Rights Network, United Nations Children Fund or Unicef, ACT Children Alliance and the Council for the Welfare of Children launched the nationwide campaign #ENDChildRape that urged lawmakers to vote for the passage of an amendatory law that will increase the age to determine statutory rape in the Philippines from below 12 years old to 16 years old.
Atty. Ma. Margarita Ardivilla, campaign spokesperson, said that aside from the lack of legal protection for children above 12, the current law does not provide equal protection for boys and girls.
“This forces the children-victims to be re-traumatized by court procedures and allows the rapist to get away with child rape,” she said. In particular, rape committed against boys above 12 is only considered as a sexual assault.
Ardivilla added that the child is perceived by law to be old enough to undergo cross-examination during court procedures for cases of rape and even incest.
Meanwhile, Councilor Ortiz mentioned three points if the pending bill is passed: (1) sexual intercourse with a child below 18 years old would now be punished as rape and not as child prostitution and sexual abuse, (2) having sexual intercourse or having sexual relations with a child below 18 would make the perpetrator liable for rape, (3) this may result to a reduced risk of pregnancy in minors for the fear of being prosecuted for having sexual intercourse with a minor. (davaotoday.com)