Jay Lawrence Agonias, a fourth year communication arts student of Northwestern University in Laoag City, urges participants to help prevent child rape. (Photo by Leilanie G. Adriano)
LAOAG CITY — Ilocanos here have joined child rights advocates in pushing for legislations that protect the rights and welfare of children.
“The campaign aims to raise the age to determine statutory rape in the Philippines from 12 to at least 16 years old. It also aims to introduce the progressive amendments in the anti-rape law, such as the equalization of legal protection for both boy and girl child victims and the removal of forgiveness clause in cases of marital rape,” Child’s Rights Network (CRN) convenor Romeo Dongeto said in an interview Wednesday.
Dongeto explained the current limit of age 12 is far below the international standards.
Under Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code, it states that rape is committed even without the presence of elements of force, threat, intimidation or fraudulent machinations, as long as the victim is under the age of 12.
“This means that children ages 13 to 16 are vulnerable and are not protected by statutory rape clause and thus need to provide evidence in Court that there was no consent in the sexual act done by their abusers to prove that rape was committed,” he added.
Atty. Ma. Margarita Ardivillia, officer-in-charge of the UNICEF Philippines Child Protection Unit, said 12 years old will only be in sixth grade and have barely gone through puberty.
“Pegging 12 as the age of consent to sex is not consistent with scientific studies of brain development as well as the physical and emotional maturity,” she added.
Backing this move, Jay Lawrence Agonias, a fourth-year communication arts student of Northwestern University, expressed gratitude that there are groups who dedicate their time and effort to protect children.
“Anyone can be a victim of rape and it’s alarming that children are the most vulnerable. As a generation born to technical advancement, netizens can help in spreading awareness and support this advocacy,” Agonias said in a public forum here, as she shared the university has an existing lifeline support group for guidance counseling and spiritual healing.
“If you sense that something is wrong, don’t hesitate to report. Be brave and be a hero by saving a life. If you are a victim, be strong and know that there are concerned groups or individuals ready to lift you up,” she added.
For his part, Northwestern University President Ferdinand Nicolas welcomed over a hundred participants mostly composed of students from different colleges and universities in the province to support the campaign to end child rape.
In Ilocos Norte, record from the Philippine National Police (PNP) shows an increasing trend of rape cases while some remain unreported.
In 2018, the PNP reported 47 rape cases as compared to 43 cases in 2017.
For the period of January this year alone, at least four rape cases were already reported to the police with two children involved in physical injury.
Data from the Department of Social Welfare and Development also shows that from 2015 to 2017, most of the victims of rape and child incest were between 14 to 17 years old. (PNA)