The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved on second reading a bill raising the age of statutory rape from the current 12 years old to 16 years old to protect young people from sexual exploitation and abuse.

The lower chamber passed through voice voting House Bill 7836, which seeks to provide stronger protection against rape, acts of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse, and increasing the age of determining the commission of statutory rape.

The measure seeks to impose reclusion perpetua or 40 years imprisonment for the crime of statutory rape against minors who are under 16 years old.

Statutory rape is non-forcible sexual activity in which one of the individuals is below the age of consent or the age required to legally consent to the behavior.

Current Philippine laws provide that sexual intercourse with children below 12 years old is illegal and tantamount to rape.

The bill also defines grooming as predatory conduct of establishing a relationship, trust, or emotional connection with a minor under 18 years old for the purpose of perpetrating sexual abuse and exploitation.

When grooming results in the consummation of any acts of sexual abuse or exploitation, the person responsible for the grooming shall be liable for rape.

Under the measure, subsequent valid marriage between the victim and offender will not extinguish criminal liability.

It shall also consider as aggravating circumstances in the commission of rape the following: when the victim becomes pregnant, when the victim suffers a permanent mental or psychological disability, or when grooming is used.

Tingog Party-list Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez, who is one of the principal authors, said any adult who has sexual intercourse with a minor below 16 years old will be guilty of rape even if the minor has given his or her consent to the sexual act under the proposed law.

“By establishing the crime of statutory rape to be any sexual activity with a child, of either sex, under the age of 16 – the law makes certain the punishment of those who commit such crime, without unnecessarily furthering the emotional and physical trauma of the child that may be brought about by a lengthy court proceeding or the need for any further physiological or material evidence,” she said. (PNA)



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