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Saturday, May 18, 2024

House ratifies bicam report on rape bill

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The House of Representatives has ratified a bicameral conference committee report on a bill to increase the age of statutory rape from the current 12 years old to 16 years old to safeguard young people from sexual exploitation and abuse.

The chamber approved the final version reconciling the disagreeing provisions of Senate Bill No. 2332 and House Bill No. 7836.

Zambales Rep. Cheryl Deloso-Montalla, committee on revision of laws chairperson, cited a provision called the “close-in relationship” or “sweetheart clause” to recognize the legitimate relationship between two teenagers.

Tingog party-list Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez said the establishment of a minimum age of sexual consent is the most important and critical criteria in protecting minors from sexual violence since the present Anti-Rape Law establishes the age of sexual consent at 12.

She is a co-author of the bill.

The clause in question states there would be no criminal liability on the part of the perpetrator if the age difference between the victim and the perpetrator is not more than three years, and the act in question is proven to be consensual.

“In the report, we determined that the age of statutory rape be set to under 16 years of age in view of the global standard on statutory rape age,” Deloso-Montalla said.

“We also aligned with this bill the age of consent in other crimes under the criminal code and other anti-child abuse and exploitation laws like the Republic Act 7610,” she added.

Deloso-Montalla lamented that rape has been rampant.

“What we know are the reported cases but the true statistics may be higher considering that there are a lot of unreported and unaccounted cases of rape and other forms of sexual abuse and exploitation that are happening,” she said.

With the ratification of the bicam report, the bill would be transmitted to Malacañang for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature.

“This means any sexual intercourse with a minor who has not reached the age of 12 is automatically regarded as rape, regardless of whether they say or appeared to have voluntarily engaged in the sexual act. However, the moment that child reaches the exact age of 12, the law assumes that the child is mature enough to give consent to another person for any sexual activity,” Romualdez said.

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