Advocates seek to raise age for statutory rape

BAGUIO. Child rights advocates Marj Ardivilla of Unicef Philippines Child Protection, Ma. Victoria Diaz from the Commission on Human Rights Child Rights Center, and Romeo Dongeteo, convener of Child Rights, are urging lawmakers to raise the age for statutory rape. (Photo by Jean Nicole Cortes)

CHILDREN'S rights groups raised the need to amend the law to increase the age for statutory rape to 16 years old from the current 12 years old.

The Child Rights Network and the United Nations International Children's Fund (Unicef) has called for the passage of a law to raise the age of accountability of statutory rape.

The groups added that under the Revised Penal Code, rape is committed even without the presence of elements of force, threat, intimidation or fraudulent machinations, as long as the victim is under the age of 12.

Marj Ardivilla, officer-in-charge of Unicef Philippines Child Protection, said that once the age for statutory rape is raised, children up to 16 years old would no longer have to relive the incident and go through the tedious process of testifying in court.

At present, children aged 13 to 16 are not protected by the statutory rape clause and need to provide evidence in court that there was no consent in the sexual act by the perpetrators.

"What is happening, because the child doesn't want to testify, may resistance, having to go to the court, papayag iyong bata na i-downgrade ang kaso. From rape to acts of lasciviousness, mag pre-bargaining sila. Nasaan ang legal protection ng bata. The child has to negotiate para hindi siya kailangan to go to the sa process of seeking justice to themselves. That is why we are saying amend the law and equalize protection for both boys and girls," Ardivilla said.

Based on the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 or Repuplic Act 9344, rape is treated as a serious offense. However, if a 13-year-old is the perpetrator of the crime then he would have to be committed to Bahay Pag-asa.

"Anyone who have sex to someone below 12 automatic rape whether the child gave consent. How about for children above 12. Are we saying ang kanyang maturity ay mataas na, na puwede siyang magbigay ng consent. So what we are seeing is the implicit the age of sexual consent is the age of statutory rape," Ardivilla said.

In a national based line survey supported by Unicef through the Council on Welfare of the Children in 2015 on violence against children, eight out of 10 Filipino children had experienced one form of violence, which, mostly occurs at home.

Out of the eight, one is a victim of sexual violence. Boys have been reported to be vulnerable to these kinds of violence including sexual violence.

Ardivilla added the state is responsible to look into rehabilitating the child. Perpetrator at the young age has to undergo case management from social workers and support from other agencies to craft interventions.

Amelyn Cabrera, Department of Social Welfare and Development Head of Protective Services Division in the Cordillera region said for both minor perpetrator and victim, the work is divided between the local government unit (LGU) and DSWD.

The LGU work the need of victim and agency work for the offender.

In Benguet province, over 100 cases of child abuse were recorded in 2018, with rape cases still prevalent.

Data from Provincial Social Welfare and Development from January to December 2018 revealed a total of 115 child abuse cases were recorded with 42 cases of rape and 11 incest rape.

To date, four bills were filed in the Senate and four bills in the House of Representatives to raise the age to determine statutory rape. With the 17th Congress on recess following the start of election campaign period, Child Rights Network convenor Romeo Dongeto expressed their intention to file in the 18th Congress a move to increase the age of statutory rape.


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