Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go has filed a bill increasing the prison term for convicted child sexual abusers to a maximum 40 years.
Under Republic Act No. 7610 or the “Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act,” the penalty for persons engaging in lascivious conduct or sexual activity with minors under 12 years old is reclusion temporal in its medium period. The same act committed against a child above 12 years but below 18 years is penalized with reclusion temporal in its medium period to reclusion perpetua.
Under current law, reclusion temporal medium for convicted sexual abuser of children under 12 is punishable by 14 years, 8 months to 17 years, 4 months imprisonment. For sexual abusers of children 12 to 18 years, the punishment of reclusion temporal medium to reclusion perpetua ranges from 14 years, 8 months to 40 years.
Under proposed law, victim under 18 shall be meted reclusion temporal medium to reclusion perpetua or 14 years, 8 months to 40 years imprisonment.
Reclusion perpetua is not equivalent to life imprisonment.
Go’s Senate Bill No. 1650 seeks to amend such provisions under Section 5 (b) of the Anti-Child Abuse Law as the penalty is lower despite the fact that the victim is younger. He cited a 2019 Supreme Court case, People v. Tulagan, which called for “corrective legislation” to address the incongruent penalties.
“Mariin po nating tinututulan ang pang-aabuso sa ating mga kabataan. Kaya naman po isinusulong ko ang panukalang ito sa Senado upang masiguro na protektado ang ating mga kabataan laban sa mga ganitong pang-aabuso,” Go said.
(We are vigorously opposing the abuse of our youth, so I am pushing for this bill in the Senate to ensure the protection of our children against this kind of abuse.)
“Ang mga kabataan po ang pag-asa ng ating bayan. Gawin po natin ang lahat upang proteksyunan sila laban sa mga taong may masamang intensyon sa kanila,” he added.
(Our youth is the hope of our nation. Let us do all we can to protect them against person with evil intentions on them.)
The Philippines is the largest known source of Online Sexual Exploitation of Children (OSEC) cases according to a recent study conducted by the Washington-based International Justice Mission in partnership with the Philippine and United States governments. The number of cases increased by 250 percent from 23,333 in 2014 to 81,723 in 2017. It is believed the widespread use of the English language, high poverty incidence rate and relatively easy internet access have enabled the crime to worsen in the country.
OSEC is predominantly a family-based crime. The average age of the victims is eleven years. The youngest documented victim is less than one year. Seventy four percent of the local cases were facilitated by someone within the child’s circle of trust, such as a family member, guardian or family friend.
The parents, if not traffickers themselves, sometimes get involved as they too share in the financial benefits obtained from the exploitation of the child. It is suggested that money, as opposed to sexual deviancy, is the primary motivator. An official of the U.S. State Department disclosed the number of OSEC cases in the Philippines is swiftly rising partly due to the economic downturn as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.
Go also filed SB No. 1649 to reduce the risk of children getting victimized by foreign pedophiles.
The bill titled Bureau of Immigration Modernization Act of 2019 aims to update the Philippines’ outdated immigration system by providing a system of documentation and prescribing the procedure and requirements for the admission of immigrants. Section 77 of the bill cites moral grounds prohibiting the entry of pedophiles, sexual perverts and persons engaged in prostitution into the country.
SB 1649 also denies entry to foreign nationals convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude or suspected to be engaged in human trafficking.
Go also appealed to authorities and communities to monitor and be vigilant of illegal activities that exploit the youth such as child pornography and online sex crimes.
“Kung may kilala po tayong gumagawa nito, magsumbong po tayo sa tamang awtoridad. Labanan po natin ito, palakasin po nating ang ating mga batas laban dito, hindi lang para sa kapakanan ng ating mga kabataan kundi para sa ating bansa,” he added.
(If you know who are doing these, report it to the proper authorities. Let’s fight it, let’s strengthen our laws against such activities not only for the sake of our children but for our country.)