The Senate has approved on third and final reading a bill raising the age of sexual consent from 12 to 16 years old to protect children from statutory rape and other forms of exploitation and abuse.

Senate Bill No. 2332, which seeks to amend Republic Act 8353 or the Anti-Rape Act of 1997, gained the favorable votes of 22 senators against one who abstained. Previously, statutory rape was defined as sexual intercourse with a victim under the age of 12 when deciding whether an act of statutory rape had occurred.

It also redefined the term “rape” to reflect the fact that it may be committed by anybody regardless of age and gender.

As a result, the term “rape” was redefined to reflect the fact that it may be committed by anybody, regardless of gender. It changed the wording of the legislation to make it clear that rape may occur between men and women as well as in other relationships.

Taking to social media Tuesday, Sen. Joel Villanueva, co-author, and co-sponsor of the approved bill said that although he was after raising the age of consent to 18 years old, he still supported its passing.

“Pasado na po ang panukala nating itaas ang edad to determine statutory rape mula 12 years old to 16 years old. Bagama’t minungkahi natin na itakda sa 18 years old ang age of consent, sinuportahan pa din po natin ang pagsasabatas nito dahil magpapalawig ito ng proteksyon sa ating kabataang Pilipino laban sa pananamantala at karahasang sekswal,” Villanueva said.

Sen. Richard Gordon, who chairs the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, highlighted the critical need for a national response to child sexual abuse and exploitation.

“Rape is a very violent crime, especially when performed against a minor. It is important that we amend the old law which clearly states that it applies to certain individuals, for women, for example, and not for men or for gay personalities,” the statement quoted Gordon as saying during his sponsorship speech.

“That’s why we’re having a legislative reform on rape, especially for the protection of our girls and boys, and others with different sexual preference from sexual violence,” he added.

Gordon said the Philippines’ rape incidents “remain troubling”, and this is the reason why they firmly support the raising of the age of sexual consent since thousands of children are robbed of their youth.

He claims that keeping the age of consent at 12 puts children in danger and makes them more susceptible to sexual abuse and that Congress must defend every child’s right to be free from sexual exploitation.

Under the bill, both men and women could be charged with statutory rape, and that the sexual orientation of the offender is not important. Gordon said the crime of rape is committed if the victim and the offender are of the same sex.

He cited that the Philippines has the lowest age of sexual consent in Asia and one of the lowest in the world.

In a 2015 National Baseline Study on Violence Against Children, one in every five children in the Philippines in the age group of 13 to 17 said they experienced sexual violence while one in 25 suffered from forced consummated sex during childhood.

Earlier, United Nations (UN) the Philippines called on Congress to prioritize the measure increasing the age for determining the commission of statutory rape to below 16 years old from the current below 12 years old.

During the period of interpellation on the bill, senators debated on the so-called “Romeo and Juliet” clause that would recognize “consensual” sexual activity between young couples if proven.

Senators later agreed that the exemption from criminal liability shall cover partners 16 years old and below, with an age difference of not more than three years, but shall not apply if the victim is aged 13 and below.

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is the chief of correspondents of Palawan News. She covers defense, politics, tourism, health, and sports stories. She loves to travel and explore different foods.