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.
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.