(File Photo)

A lawmaker in the House of Representatives (HOR) said that the new law raising the minimum age of sexual consent from 12 to 16 might help dramatically reduce abuses against minors and provide them with stronger protection.

Manila Rep. Manny Lopez, one of the primary authors of Republic Act 11648, explained that the legislation would strengthen protection against rape, sexual exploitation, and abuse, particularly in poorer communities, citing his district of Tondo, which ranks “among the top in terms of recorded crimes of this nature” due to its dense population and poor and unsafe living conditions for the majority of its residents.

He said it is imperative that the government extend the scope of protection for poor children where they are more susceptible to all forms of sexual abuse.

Under the new law, any sexual act committed against minors under 16 years of age, with certain exceptions, is now automatically treated as rape.

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Also punished under this new law are acts of seduction, having sexual intercourse with a minor under 16, and under 18 years of age, as opposed to the previous law which punishes such act of seduction only if the offended party was a woman and over 12 years and under 18 years of age.

Lopez urged all relevant sectors of the community to work hand-in-hand to combat these abuses and exert all efforts to protect minors.

“Our schools, as mandated by the law, should ensure that they put in place learning subjects or sessions regarding rights and protection of children so they are able to identify, respond to and report rape and other sexual offenses. Our police force must be vigilant in going after all offenders,” he said.

He said as the new law takes effect, everyone should their part and continue to pursue more ways to protect the rights of all children in the country.

“Government institutions must continue to create opportunities and meaningful developments to improve the lives of its citizens, particularly those of the less fortunate. Finally, our dear parents must take a more active role in the lives of their children. This is the most effective way of protecting our children against these abuses,” he said.

With respect to acts constituting child prostitution and other sexual abuse, child trafficking, and other acts of neglect, cruelty, or exploitation, these are now punishable if the victim is under 16 years of age under the new law.

Included are cases involving obscene publications and indecent shows if the child used as a performer, subject, or seller/distributor is under 18 years of age, all of which acts previously covered only those whose victims are under 12 years of age.

The law states that there shall be no criminal liability on the part of a person having carnal knowledge of another person under 16 years of age when the age difference between the parties is not more than three years, and the sexual act in question is proven to be consensual, non-abusive, and non-exploitative: Provided, further, that if the victim is under 13 years of age, this exception shall not apply.

As used in this act, non-abusive shall mean the absence of undue influence, intimidation, fraudulent machinations, coercion, threat, physical, sexual, psychological, or mental injury or maltreatment, either with intention or through neglect, during the sexual activities with child victim, the law said.

On the other hand, non-exploitative shall mean there is no actual or attempted act or acts of unfairly taking advantage of the child’s position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust during sexual activities. (PNA)

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