House of Representatives

House OKs bill raising age of sexual consent to 16

Mara Cepeda
The current minimum age of sexual consent in the Philippines is 12, one of the lowest in the world

The House of Representatives gave its final nod to a bill that would consider as rape if an adult would have sexual contact with a minor below 16 years old.

A total of 207 lawmakers approved House Bill (HB) No. 7839 on 3rd and final reading on Tuesday, December 1. Only 3 legislators voted against the measure, while none abstained from the vote. 

The current minimum age of sexual consent in the Philippines is 12 years old, the lowest in Southeast Asia and one of the lowest in the world. 

But if HB 7839 is passed into law, any adult who engages in sexual activity with a minor aged below 16 would be automatically guilty of rape – regardless if the minor gave his or her consent.

Rapists would be sentenced to life imprisonment under the measure. 

HB 7839 would make these possible by amending provisions of the 23-year-old Republic Act No. 8353 or the Anti-Rape Law of 1997 and the Revised Penal Code.

Under the bill, the following acts would be considered as rape if done against another person, regardless of gender:

  • Inserting or causing the insertion of a person’s penis into another person’s inner or outer vaginal labia, anal orifice or mouth.
  • Inserting or causing the insertion of a finger, instrument or object, into another person’s inner or outer vaginal labia or anal orifice.
  • Placing or causing the placement of a person’s penis between, or rubbing or causing the rubbing thereof on, the breasts of another person.

The measure would also consider it rape to make someone commit such acts by way of:

  • Force, threat, intimidation, deception, and coercion
  • Abuse of authority or moral ascendancy
  • Employment of means to deprive him or her of reason, or render him or her unconscious
  • Other fraudulent machinations
  • When the victim is incapable of giving consent by reason of his or her physical, mental, or psychological disability or condition.

House committee on the welfare of children chair Yedda Marie Romualdez, a primary author of the bill, hoped the Senate would soon pass its version.

“I appeal to our colleagues in the Senate: let us pass this bill as a gift for and a commitment to the safety of our children. Definitely, no children should be left without sufficient protection especially from rape,” Romualdez said. 

“Child rape is an ugly and painful reality that we must collectively confront and address immediately and decisively. But it is not enough that we are indignant. Our indignation must translate into action, and concrete measures to stop it,” added the Tingog Sinirangan congresswoman. 

The Senate version already hurdled the committee level in October. – 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.