Senate approves measure raising statutory age of rape from 12 to 16

Marje Pelayo   •   September 28, 2021   •   153

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate of the Philippines on Monday (September 27) passed on third and final reading a proposed measure that seeks to raise the age of sexual consent from the current 12 to 16 years old.

The bill was proposed in a bid to protect young people from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse.

With 22 affirmative votes, no negative vote and one abstention, the Senate approved Senate Bill 2332, or An Act Increasing the Age for Determining Statutory Rape and other Acts of Sexual Abuse and Exploitation to Protect Children.

It seeks to amend Republic Act 3815, or the Revised Penal Code, and RA 7610, also known as the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act.

Under the bill, both men and women could be charged with statutory rape, and that the sexual orientation of the offender is not important.

During the period of interpellation on the bill, senators debated on the so-called “Romeo and Juliet” clause that would recognize “consensual” sexual activity between young couples if proven.

Senators later agreed that the exemption from criminal liability shall cover partners 16 year old and below, with age difference of not more than three years, but shall not apply if the victim is aged 13 and below.

In a 2015 National Baseline Study on Violence Against Children, one in every five children in the Philippines in the age group of 13 to 17 said they experienced sexual violence while one in 25 suffered from forced consummated sex during childhood.

Earlier, United Nations (UN) Philippines called on Congress to prioritize the measure increasing the age for determining the commission of statutory rape to below 16 years old from the current below 12 years old.

Piñol to run for senator, resigns from MinDA

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 4, 2021

MANILA, Philippines— Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) Secretary Emmanuel Piñol has resigned from his post to vie for a senatorial seat in the 2022 national elections.

In a Facebook post, Piñol announced that he has tendered his resignation which will take effect on October 5.

Piñol served as the Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary from June 30, 2016 to August 5, 2019 and as chairman of the MinDA from August 5, 2019 to October 5, 2021.

“I have reached a decision to vie for a seat in the Philippine Senate to pursue my advocacy to help the Filipino farmers and fishermen become more productive while at the same time ensuring food security and economic prosperity in the country,” he said in his post.

The official added that friends have pledged their support by lending vehicles and volunteering to print tarps and campaign in the field. He will run under the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) and will pursue programs for farmers and boost the country’s agriculture.

“Our mission is clear and precise: Let us turn the Philippines into a major producer in Agriculture and Fisheries in this part of the world while at the same time create income and job opportunities so that our loved ones do not have to leave home to find work abroad,” Piñol said. AAC

 

Senate approves bill extending voter registration for 1 month

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 28, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—The Senate on Monday (September 27) approved on third and final reading a bill extending voter registration by 30 days.

Senate Bill No. 2408, an Act Extending the Registration of Voters for the 2022 National and Local Elections, was unanimously approved by all senators and agreed that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) needed to be compelled to move the deadline after its continued rejection of the proposal.

Senator Miguel Zubiri, main sponsor of the bill, said there is no need for a bicameral meeting as the Senate will adopt the House of Representatives’ version of the bill. He added that the final version will be sent to President Rodrigo Duterte for his signature.

“Hopefully the President will sign this request,” Zubiri said.

The extension of voter registration, according to Zubiri,  would prevent the disenfranchisement of about 12 million eligible voters.

In the bill’s explanatory note, the senators stressed that almost six months of the registration period was lost when strict lockdowns were imposed during the pandemic. More days were lost too when areas were reverted back to enhanced community quarantine (ECQ)or modified ECQ.

Comelec set the voter registration deadline to September 30, which was before the pandemic, the senators said.

“In this connection, Comelec could not have anticipated the adverse impact of the pandemic on voter registration and must make the necessary adjustments to allow more unregistered potential voters to register. In fact, voter registration was suspended several times due to the adverse effect of Covid-19,” the senators added. AAC

 

 

Senate panel questions P100B worth of unimplemented projects in 2021 budget

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 22, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—The Senate finance subcommittee on Wednesday (September 22) questioned the P100 billion-worth of unimplemented projects.

During Wednesday’s virtual hearing of the panel, Senator Nancy Binay questioned  the P100 billion worth of unimplemented projects due to the absence of clearance from the Office of the President (OP).

According to Binay, only about 30% of the Department of Public Works and Highways’  projects for  2021 have so far been implemented because there was no clearance from the OP.

“Nakakagulat kasi nga mag-o-October na in a few days and then may maririnig tayo na P100 billion worth of projects na alam natin can generate a lot of jobs na kailangan na kailangan natin ngayon pero hanggang ngayon hindi nga nai-implement ang mga programa na ito ” she said.

The said infrastructure projects were marked ‘For Later Release’ under the 2021 national budget and there is still no clearance from the OP.  The senators said the unused funds will return to the national treasury once the year ends.

Senator Miguel Zubiri urged the release of the funds which also include the budget for ‘Doktor Para sa Bayan Act’ which aims to provide medical scholarships. He also called for an executive session to discuss the issue.

“We all know that we need to have countryside development, and the only way to do countryside development is to push for medical scholarships, to push for this infrastructure programs,” he said.

The OP, meanwhile, the said budget would still need to be reviewed since it was not part of the original budget submitted under the 2021 National Expenditure Program.

“Many of these—because they are not in the NEP—have not gone through the usual vetting process of the agencies and so there’s that reason to place them in a category of their own, which warrants the imposition of special conditions for their release,” according to OP Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Michael Ong.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea assured that the release of the budget mentioned will be given priority.

“We will just look into it and see to it that this will be acted soonest,” he said. AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

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