The Philippine Age of Consent- 12 years old
Fr. Shay Cullen, Mssc
For generations, the rape and sexual abuse of children has been a regular practice of the human species mostly by men but frequently assisted and enabled by women, too. Philippine laws to justify it have been passed, mostly by men, by setting the age of consent for sexual acts as low as 12 years of age in the Philippines.
This is the lowest age of consent anywhere in the world and this must be changed and challenged and politicians asked why they have left children as young as 12 vulnerable to sexual assault.
As early as 1995, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child advised the Philippines to pass a law clearly establishing the age of consent. It has refused to do so. The question is why?
The Anti-Rape Law of 1997 otherwise known as R.A. 8353 describes rape as a sexual act with anyone below 12 year of age. In Chapter Three, it says rape is committed “when the offended party is under twelve (12) years of age or is demented,” which means over that age it is approved provided there is consent and no force used.
Few Filipino parents will agree that their child is capable of giving consent to an act about he or she knows practically nothing at that age. The simple rape law in the Penal Code 266 A and in all other provisions of that Penal Code also state 12 years as the age of consent. The exception is where it is amended by section 5 of the Philippine Child Protection Law otherwise known as RA 7610.
In all countries worldwide, there is no other nation that allows its children as young as 12 to be used for the sexual gratification of men or women. Worldwide in most countries the age of consent for sexual acts with a minor range from 14 to 18 years of age, the average is 16 years of age. The United Nations in the Convention on the Rights of the Child sets the age of a child at 18 years below. RA 7610 says the same.
The Anti-Rape Law (RA 8353) in the Philippines, while protective of women and men, is devastating to children. People can sexually abuse children and claim the child gave consent. A judge who favors that act as permissible can dismiss a case of child abuse on that basis. This is a possible factor in drawing hundreds of thousands of local and foreign sex tourists to abuse children and is encouraging the human trafficking of children into the sex industry.
However, some protection is afforded to children under section 4b of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law otherwise known as RA 9208. It impose life imprisonment and a 2-million peso fine as a punishment for anyone who traffics or provides another person for prostitution or any form of sexual exploitation.
No age limit is given so any person especially minors are protected under this provision. It is also a crime where bail is not allowed yet it is very difficult to prove that the child was a victim of trafficking and so they are very few convictions.
Prosecutors or police may, for an inducement, lower the trafficking charge to “acts of lasciviousness” and use the penal code age of 12 years for consent to justify it. Then the suspect can escape. This makes the Philippines a haven for child traffickers. This has put the Philippines on the precarious level 2 of the Trafficking in Persons Index of the US Department of State.
The sexual and emotional exploitation and abuse of young women and minors is on an industrial scale now in the Philippines and elsewhere yet the government is doing much too little to stop it. The politicians who make laws are more obsessed regaining or staying in power than protecting the welfare of our children.
This is the shocking truth and the Anti-Rape Law of 1997 and the Penal Code must be amended and set the age of consent at no less than 17. In Filipino culture and custom the lack of education, awareness and knowledge of their rights and the sexualization of children in movies and stage shows in the media and on the Internet makes children very vulnerable. It is made to appear as normal and makes young people very vulnerable to being abused. They are then pressured and forced to say they consented. There is a strong movement starting to have it changed. It ought to be an issue in the coming elections.
According to our laws, adults can have sex with 12 year- olds, this is the way it is. All the abuser has to do is to claim it was without violence and with the consent of the child. Some judges could dismiss a case on that ground. But the vast majority of Filipinos surely say no, this is not right. But why has the law not changed?
For most Filipinos that is abhorrent and disgusting and the vast majority hold firmly that their child of twelve or older can never freely give her or his consent with clear knowledge and full understanding of what will be done to her or him.
All Filipinos of intelligence and moral conscience and above all the Church must take a stand on this and confront it and campaign to repeal and amend that section in the Anti-Rape Law of 1997 and the Penal Code while it is somewhat off-set by the stricter law protecting children RA 7610.
Yet child abuse and child sexual exploitation is spreading and this bad law that defines rape as a sexual act with a person under 12 could be a contributing factor. Civil society and every Filipino of good conscience and the bishops and Churches must campaign and pressure to have this law and the penal code amended. Silence on the issue is seen as giving consent and that we must never do. Not all laws are right, just and good. Some are wrong and dangerous and this is one of them.