The Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights’ approval of the measure that seeks to increase the age of sexual consent in the Philippines is already “way overdue” but nevertheless a welcome development detained Senator Leila de Lima said on Monday.

delima 1 - De Lima welcomes ‘overdue’ Senate bill on higher age of sexual consent
Senator Leila de Lima (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

“The approval by the Committee of Justice and Human Rights of the measure that will increase the age of sexual consent in our country last Oct. 1, has been a long-awaited piece of legislation to protect our youth,” De Lima said in a statement.

The senator said the bill increasing the age of statutory rape from the present 12 to 16 years old will serve as the mantle of protection that Filipino children need especially at a time when their innocence has become so easily and cheaply pawned both in the real and the cyber world.

De Lima recalled that when she first filed her version of the measure in 2018, it was after UNICEF Philippines started the movement to #ENDChildRape on their online platforms.

Through their platform, she said UNICEF made public the horrific truth that the Philippines age of sexual consent is the lowest in Asia. The current age of consent which is at 12 years old has placed the country’s ranking as second only to Nigeria.

“Masakit at mapait na tanong ang nag-laro sa aking isipan. Paanong sa isang bansang itinatangi ang kabataan bilang pag-asa ng bayan, ay pinapabayaan natin sila sa kawalan na parang mga tupang walang pastol? (It’s a painful and bitter question to me—how can a country neglect its own youth which it considers its future?)” she pointed out.

“A country that tags the youth as its future should then put (a) premium on their welfare and create strongholds that would shelter them from the world’s viciousness,” she stressed.

She said passage of the measure into law will not only protect the country’s youth from sexual predators—who so conveniently raise the defense of consent in a court of law to exonerate them—it will, likewise, stem the rise in teenage pregnancies in the country.

“Their tender and formative years should not be smeared by evils that could otherwise be prevented. They should not be robbed of their innocence while malicious and sinister beings roam freely amongst them,” the senator said.

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