The Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) lauds the Philippine Senate for its passage of Senate Bill (S.B.) 2332, which elevates the age of sexual consent from 12 to 16 and redefines rape under the Revised Penal Code.
POPCOM said the bill complements, and will further boost the rollout, of the recently enacted Executive Order (E.O.) 141. The latter directs government agencies to prioritize measures that will address the nationwide upsurge in the number of teenage pregnancies, now widely considered as an “urgent national priority.”
Undersecretary for Population and Development Juan Antonio Perez III, MD, MPH strongly believes that S.B. 2332 is a direct adjunct to E.O. 141, as it will positively contribute to the reduction of teen pregnancy numbers—especially those involving 16 years old and below, or minors who are classified as “very young adolescents.”
“Senate Bill 2332 will effectively deter abuses on young girls who are potential victims of power play by older men,” POPCOM’s executive director emphasized. “It will also reinforce the implementation of E.O. 141, which seeks to protect very young Filipinas from falling into misfortune and a disadvantaged life that are difficult to reverse, and will require the State to extend social protection.”
Currently, the Philippines has one of the lowest minimum ages of sexual consent at 12 in the ASEAN region and the rest of the world. Perez disclosed that in 2019, there were 10,422 births among the abovementioned age group, which could be considered falling under statutory rape. The passage of the bill could protect the same number of girls in the future who might be vulnerable or susceptible to falling into similar circumstances.
He likewise explained that, while the Senate bill might be punitive on the surface, POPCOM also acknowledges its so-called “Romeo and Juliet/sweetheart” or close-in-age exemption clause, which will protect and decriminalize those in a genuine relationship; in such cases, a girl who may be with a man who is not more than three years her senior, as the bill will not interfere with their union.
According to senators, sexual relations below 13 are considered criminal acts, regardless of circumstances. The bill also defines rape as a crime against persons rather than a violation of chastity, which increases the chances of prosecution.
E.O. 141, explained the POPCOM chief, will complement S.B. 2332’s eventual enactment: “Both manifest the country’s whole-of-government and multisectoral approach in further strengthening their protection on Filipino youth—particularly the 6 million whose ages are between 10 and 16, who are among the most vulnerable in our society to abuse and sexual exploitation which, in turn, can affect their future as productive citizens of the country.”
POPCOM also recognizes the bill’s gender-neutral protection for children, as it will equally shield boys who are also victims of sexual abuses, but whose perpetrators were previously meted with less-serious sentences.
The Senate and the House of Representatives will reconvene for a reconciled version of the bill, which will be eventually transmitted to Malacañang for the approval of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.