Press Release
October 9, 2018

Senate passes measure penalizing catcalling, street-based sexual harassment

The Senate, with a vote of 21 senators present, on Monday passed on third and final reading a measure that would penalize with fines cat-calling, stalking, cursing, making body gestures or exposing private parts, among others.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, sponsor of Senate Bill 1558, or "Safe Streets, Workplaces and Public Spaces Act of 2017, lauded the passage of the measure, which benefit mainly women and the LGBT community.

In her sponsorship speech, Hontiveros says remarks such as "Hi Sexy!" "Wow legs!" "Pahipo naman!" "Ang ganda mo, 'te, L ako sa iyo!" "Hoy, babae ka ba o bakla?" could now be penalized if her bill is signed into law.

"While wolf-whistling and catcalling are the more common cases, other forms of sexual harassment include stalking, rubbing or touching, indecent gestures, exhibitionism and public masturbation. Majority of these incidents take place on the streets and small alleys, but they have also been reported to happen in public vehicles, public washrooms, schools, and workplaces," Hontiveros said.

Contained in Committee Report No. 156, Hontiveros said it consolidates Senate Bill 1326, or An Penalizing Gender-Based Street and Public Spaces Harassment, Senate Bill 1250, or the Anti Sexual Harassment Act of 2016, and Senate Bill 1254 filed by Sen. Grace Poe, otherwise known as An Act To Eliminate All Forms Of Sexual Harassment In Work Places, Educational Institutions, And Public Places.

The bill imposed imposes penalties against unwanted comments, gestures, and actions forced on a person in a public place without their consent and is directed at them because of their actual or perceived sex, gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation and identity.

Specific acts include but are not limited to unwanted cursing, wolf-whistling, catcalling, leering, sexist, persistent requests for someone's name, number or destination after clear refusal, persistent telling of sexual jokes, use of sexual names, comments and demands, following, flashing, public masturbation, groping, and stalking.

In her explanatory note, Hontiveros cited a Social Weather Stations survey last year that showed 88 percent of women aged 18 to 24 years old experienced sexual harassment on the streets.

A special feature of her bill, she said, was the designation of "anti-sexual harassment enforcers (A-SHE)" to immediately arrest offenders if caught in the act.

"There shall be anti-sexual harassment enforcers (A-SHE) who will be deputized to receive complaints on the streets and immediately apprehend the offender if the same was caught in flagrante delicto," the bill stated.

The Philippine National Police will deputize the Metro Manila Development Authority enforcers for Metro Manila and the local units of the PNP for other provinces, to as "A-SHEs," it said.

Offenses are divided into three: Light violations, medium violations and severe violations.

People who commit "light" violations like cat-calling, cursing, wolf-whistling, leering, and persistently telling sexual jokes, could be fined P1,000 and/or made to perform eight hours of community service for their first offense. Three-time offenders face 11 to 30 days in jail or a fine of P3,000.

Making offensive body gestures at someone or exposing private parts for the sexual gratification of the perpetrator are considered a "medium" violation.

Those who commit "medium" violation for the third time face one to six months in jail or a fine of P5,000. Stalking, and all the "light" and "medium" acts committed and accompanied by touching, pinching or brushing against the body of a person are considered "severe" violations.

The offender who committed such acts for the third time would be penalized with a jail term of up to six months or a fine of P10,000.

The penalty next higher in degree will be applied if the act takes place in public utility vehicle where the perpetrator is the driver of a vehicle and the victim is a passenger; if the victim is a minor; if the perpetrator is a member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines or the PNP; and, if the act takes place in the premises of a government agency offering front-line services to the public.

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