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SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau

Committee approves stiffer penalties for child abuse, exploitation & discrimination
02 December 2019 06:53:22 PM

The House Committee on the Welfare of Children chaired by Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez (Party-list, Tingog Sinirangan) has approved House Bill No. (HB) 137, in consolidation with HB 3632 by Deputy Speaker Aurelio Gonzales Jr. (3rd District, Pampanga), HB 3520 by Deputy Speaker Michael Romero, Ph.D. (Party-list, 1-PACMAN), HB 3020 by Deputy Majority Leader Wilter "Sharky" II Wee Palma (1st District, Zamboanga Sibugay) and HB 4867 by Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro).

Romualdez said the measure is consistent, with the committee's goal to help prevent threats and harm to the security and safety of children, and to provide quality social protection services for them.

The bill approved during the committee's hearing last November 25, 2019 seeks the amendment of Sections 9, 10, 16 and 20 of Republic Act No. (RA) 7610, as amended, also known as the “Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act" enacted on June 17, 1992. During the hearing, Rep. Manuel DG Cabochan lll (Party-list, MAGDALO) sponsored HB 137 in behalf of its author, Rep. Geraldine Roman (1st District, Bataan). He moved that the bill’s explanatory note be adopted as Roman’s sponsorship speech.

In her explanatory note, Roman said “1992 was a quarter of a century and now there are still numerous instances where minors are exploited by both foreign predators and domestic abusers. The law needs updating now and the penalties imposed therein do not seem attuned to the 21st century. It is the duty of the 18th Congress to ensure that laws of the country keep up with the times to secure and protect our citizens.”

The bill seeks the amendment of several key provisions of RA 7610, such as Section 9, which is proposed to be amended to penalize any person who shall hire, employ, use, persuade, induce or coerce a child to perform obscene exhibitions and indecent shows, whether live or in video, pose or model in obscene publications or pornographic materials or to sell or distribute the said materials, by increasing the penalty to reclusion temporal in its medium period.

The bill also seeks the amendment of Section 10, as amended, so that any person who shall commit any other act of child abuse, cruelty, or exploitation or be responsible for the conditions prejudicial to the child’s development, shall suffer the penalty of reclusion temporal in its minimum period.

Further, any person who shall induce, deliver or offer a minor to any one prohibited by the Act to keep or have in his company a minor shall suffer the penalty of prision mayor in its maximum period and a fine of not less than P400,000. Should the perpetrator be an ascendant, stepparent or guardian of the minor, the penalty to be imposed shall be reclusion temporal in its medium period and a fine of not less than P500,000, and the loss of parental authority over the minor.

Moreover, any person who shall use, coerce, force or intimidate a street child or any other child to (1) beg or use begging as a means of living; (2) act as conduit or middlemen in drug trafficking or pushing; or (3) conduct any illegal activities, shall suffer the penalty of reclusion temporal to reclusion perpetua.

Deputy Speaker Aurelio Gonzales Jr., author of HB 3632, said he hopes for a brighter future for Filipino children, hence the need to protect them from immoral and sexual abuses, exploitation, prostitution, and atrocities. Department of Justice (DOJ) Public Information and Promotion Division Director Albert Ignatius Abragan ll said they support the approval of HB 137 as it does not  contravene with any of the provisions of the Constitution.

Arlyne Fernandez of Child Rights Network lauded the authors for providing measures that are aligned with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which provides that the government has an obligation to ensure that all children are protected against all forms of violence and as such, should take all possible measures to make sure that children are not be abused, exploited and discriminated.