House approves stiffer penalties vs sexual harassment

Mara Cepeda
From a fine between P10,000 and P20,000, sexual harassers would be ordered to pay P50,000 up to P200,000 if the House bill is passed into law

NO TO SEXUAL HARASSMENT. Legislators want to impose stiffer penalties for sexual harassment cases. Illustration by Ernest Fiestan/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives gave its nod to a bill seeking to impose stiffer penalties on people committing sexual harassment in the workplace, schools, and training institutions.

On Monday, November 12, legislators approved House Bill (HB) No. 8244 on 3rd and final reading with a vote of 162-0-0. (READ: The many faces of sexual harassment in PH)

If passed into law, HB 8244 would would repeal Republic Act (RA) No. 7877 or the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995. 

RA 7877 currently imposes a fine of P10,000 to P20,000 and jail time between one month and 6 months. If passed into law, HB 8244 would increase the penalties to a fine of P50,000 to P200,000, but the length of imprisonment would be the same.

The House bill would also impose a fine of P20,000 to P50,000 for those who will violate the victim’s right to privacy during the investigation, prosecution, and trial period.

The measure seeks to expand the definition of sexual harassment as “an act, or series of acts, which may be committed physically, verbally, or visually or with the use of information and communications technology or any other means or technology within or outside of the place of employment, or a training or education environment that would result in an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for the employee.”

The definition would cover acts by employers, teachers, instructors, and other persons of authority who will commit “any unwanted, unwelcome or inappropriate sexual advance, request or demand for sexual favor, regardless of whether the request or demand is accepted by the object of the sexual advances.” 

The heads of companies and educational and training institutions would be required to adopt a “comprehensive, detailed” written policy on sexual harassment, including a clear procedure on the investigation of sexual harassment cases. 

They would also be mandated to create a Committee on Decorum and Investigation (CODI) that would receive complaints, investigate, and hold hearings on sexual harassment cases.

The same committee would be tasked to conduct information dissemination campaigns to promote how to report cases of sexual harassment.

Companies as well as educational and training institutions must resolve sexual harassment cases within 15 days from the submission of the CODI’s report to the disciplining authority.

The Senate already approved a bill seeking to protect women from catcalling and other forms of street harassment. 

The House approved HB 8244 in the midst of the sexual harassment controversy involving Miss Earth pageant sponsor Amado Cruz. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.