Press Release
August 25, 2021

Co-sponsorship speech of Senator Pia S. Cayetano on SBN 2332
Raising the statutory rape age fom the current 12 to 16 years old

Mr. President, dear colleagues, I rise today to co-sponsor Senate Bill No. 2332 under Committee Report No. 279. I worked on a similar bill when I was in the House of Representatives.

Senate Bill 2332 seeks to increase the age of sexual consent in the country from twelve years to above sixteen years old, for what I would have thought would be obvious reasons.

The age of consent has remained at 12 years of age since 1930, following the enactment of the Revised Penal Code. So that's a 90-year-old law, which was later on adopted in the Anti-Rape Law of 1997.

In other words, any sexual intercourse with a minor who has not reached the age of 12 is automatically regarded as rape, even if the minor consented or appeared to have voluntarily engaged in the sexual act.

However, once a child reaches the ripe old age of 12, it's a different story. Suddenly, under the law, this 12-year-old can give consent to that act. But we ask ourselves, how can a 12-year-old give consent to such an act?

Any way we see it, a 12-year-old, in the strictest definition, is a child.

Children are defined as those persons below 18 years of age or those over 18 but are unable to fully take care of themselves or protect themselves from abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation or discrimination because of a physical or mental disability or condition. And yet under existing laws, they can consent to a sexual act with an adult?

Studies even show that the rational part of the brain that deals with making good judgment and awareness of long-term consequences is not yet fully developed until the age of 25.

In this day and age, it truly boggles the mind. We note that in the 1930s when the Revised Penal Code was passed, girls could get married at 14, boys at 16. This is based on the Old Civil Code passed in 1949. We changed this when the Family Code was enacted on 3 August 1988. So now the marriage age is 18 for both boys and girls.

But the idea that the shame of a rape would be covered up with a marriage persisted for decades. Or that focing a 12 year old to later on say he/she consented, cleared the perpetrator of a crime. Clearly those are the reason for this provision. Anything to give the perpetrator an excuse. A girl's honor would be restored if she married her rapist. That was the thinking. It's terrible, I know. But that's how people of the past thought. Having been very active with the Inter Parliamentary Union and a past President of the Women's Bureau of the IPU, we know that this still persists in other countries, that way of thinking. But I'd like to believe that that way of thinking is left in the past in this country.

We cannot change the way people thought and acted in the past. But we can change our laws to prevent this kind of thinking and behavior today. It's now time we change our laws to protect our children.

Now, let's look at what's happening from a global perspective. The Philippines has the lowest age of consent in Asia, and one of the lowest in the world.

Even when the Philippines had approved and adopted the International Convention on the Rights of Child (UNCRC), we remained non-compliant with its recommendation to increase the age of sexual consent to at least 16 years of age.

This goes against the very principles we laid down under our Constitution, which mandates the State to value the dignity of every human person and guarantee full respect for human rights, as well as to defend the right of children to special protection from all forms of neglect, abuse, cruelty, exploitation, and other conditions prejudicial to their development.

The passage of this bill is even made more urgent given the rise in cases of violence against women and children during this pandemic. Data from the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) showed that from March 15 to Nov. 13, 2020, there have been 13,923 reported cases of violence against women and their children, 4,747 of which were cases wherein the children themselves were the victims.

We have more data, Mr. President. But our colleagues who spoke before me, I'm sure those who will speak after me, have spread and will continue to spread more of this into the record.

One last point, to complement this measure, we wish to also emphasize the need to immediately implement our existing laws that seek to educate our children about their rights, including those provided in the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law.

One important provision is the age- and development- appropriate comprehensive sexuality education, which will help children and adolescents understand not only their reproductive system (the body parts) but their reproductive health rights as well, such as their right to personal safety and boundaries and privacy, their right to body safety, which includes the right not be inappropriately touched by others, and their right not to be put in compromising situations.

Our current law on the age of sexual consent takes away our children's right to be children and to enjoy their childhood. Let's do the right thing and amend this 90-year-old law. Let's change the narrative for our children. On this note, Mr. President, I humbly that I be made co-sponsor of this measure.

Thank you, Mr. President and dear colleagues.

News Latest News Feed