SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
The House of Representatives unanimously approved on third and final reading House Bill 8244 or the proposed “Expanded Anti-Sexual Harassment Act” which seeks to impose graver punishment on individuals committing sexual harassment.
The bill shall repeal Republic Act No. 7877 or the “Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995,” which currently penalizes any person, upon conviction, with one to six months of imprisonment, or a fine of P10,000 to P20,000, or both at the discretion of the court.
Through this bill, violators shall then be penalized by imprisonment of one to six months, or a fine of P50,000 to P200,000, or both, at the discretion of the court.
If the perpetrator is found to be an individual who has authority, influence or moral ascendancy over another’s work, training or education, maximum penalties shall be imposed.
The measure also ensures the victim’s right to privacy at any stage of the investigation, prosecution, and trial of an offense. Any person who contravenes this provision shall be fined with P20,000 to P50,000.
In addition, harassment victims shall not be prohibited from instituting a separate and independent action for damages and other affirmative relief, apart from the administrative sanctions enforced by the employer or head of office.
Employers or heads of office shall have a significant function in combating the issue of sexual harassment in their work-related, education, or training institutions.
As the bill stipulates, an employer or head of office shall implement a comprehensive written policy on sexual harassment, which shall outline the detailed procedure for case investigations and the administrative sanctions. They shall be responsible for the prevention of any act of sexual harassment.
With this, the employer or head of office, in fulfillment of the bill’s objectives, shall 1) promulgate appropriate rules and regulations; 2) create a Committee on Decorum and Investigation (CODI) within one year of the agency’s existence or initial operations; and 3) resolve cases within 15 days from the submission by the CODI of its report to the disciplining authority.
The measure further provides that the CODI shall have the following functions: (1) receive complaints of sexual harassment, (2) investigate on these complaints, (3) constitute a hearing committee for every case, (4) submit a report with a corresponding recommendation for decision within a non-extendible period of 30 days, (5) lead in the conduct of discussions within the institution to increase understanding of sexual harassment and prevent its incidents, (6) undertake information and educational activities, (7) formulate and adopt procedures to elicit trust and confidence from affected parties, including counseling and grievance management, (8) provide security and support measures to the victims, and (9) disseminate copies of the law.
The Civil Service Commission, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, National Labor Relations Commission, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority shall be the monitoring mechanisms of this measure.
In particular, these agencies shall fulfill the following: (a) mobilize their respective regional offices to regularly monitor the implementation; (b) issue the appropriate memorandum to their regional offices, directing them to monitor the compliance of institutions; and (c) provide an annual monitoring report on the implementation to the Philippine Commission on Women.| Molie Gonzales