The exploitation and abuse of minors will henceforth be more severely penalized thanks to a substitute bill approved this week by the House Committee on Welfare of Children chaired by Rep. Divina Yu of Zamboanga del Sur’s 1st District.
The panel approved the bill in a hearing presided by Committee Vice Chairman Cesar Sarmiento of Catanduanes. The bill provides for the substitution of House Bill Nos. 5662 and 6295, respectively authored by Reps. Geraldine Roman of Bataan’s 1st District and Michael Odylon Romero, a party list representative of 1-PACMAN.
Rep. Roman said that existing laws need to be updated to reflect the severity of the crimes. At present, the law and respective penalties for violations do not seem attuned to the 21st century, according to Roman. The substitute bill seeks to address this issue by amending for the purpose several sections of Republic Act (RA) No. 7610, as amended by Republic Act No. 9231, also known as the “Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination”.
Roman further explains that RA 7610 was enacted by the government on June 17, 1992 – nearly 30 years ago. RE 7610 allowed the State to play a vital role in the safe and wholesome rearing of children, functioning to keep them protected and develop them into good citizens.
“1992 was a quarter of a century ago and now there are still numerous instances where minors are exploited by both foreign and domestic abusers,” Roman said.
The advent of technology and the internet has led to new ways of exploitation, such as sex shows conducted online. The substitute bill seeks to amend Section 9 of RA 7610 which provides the penalty of reclusion temporal in its medium period to any person who shall hire, employ, use, persuade, induce or coerce a child to perform in 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. For children below 12 years old used as performers, subjects, or sellers/distributors, the penalty shall be reclusion perpetua.
The penalty of reclusion temporal in its maximum period shall otherwise be imposed upon “any ascendant, guardian, or person entrusted in any capacity with the care of the child who shall cause and/or allow such child to be employed or to participate in an obscene play, scene, act, movie or show or in any other acts covered by this section”.
The substitute bill also seeks to amend Section 10 of RA 7610, adjusting it so that the penalty of reclusion temporal in its minimum period be meted out to any person who commits any other acts of child abuse, exploitation, or cruelty. This would include those responsible for conditions prejudicial to the child’s development, such as conditions outlined and covered by Article 59 or Presidential Decree No. 603, as amended, but not covered by the Revised Penal Code, as amended
Moreover, the bill would provide that the penalty of reclusion temporal in its medium period, as well as a fine of not less than P500,000 shall be meted out to any person who shall “keep or have in his company a minor, 12 years or under or who is 10 years or more his junior, in any public or private place, hotel, motel, beer joint discotheque, cabaret, pension house, sauna or massage parlor, beach and/or other tourist resort or similar places.”
The bill further states that “any person who shall induce, deliver or offer a minor to any one prohibited by this Act to keep or have in his company a minor shall suffer the penalty of prison 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 shall be reclusion temporal in its medium period, a fine of not less than P500,000 and the loss of parental authority over the minor”.
The penalty of prison mayor in its maximum period and a fine of not less than P500,000, as well as the loss of a license to operate the place or establishment where the abuse was perpetrated is what the bill sees fit for “any person, owner, manager or one entrusted with the operation of any public or private place of accommodation, whether for occupancy, food, drink or otherwise, including residential places, who allows any person to take along with him to such place or places any minor as described in the Act.”
Offenders of keeping minors in their company in this lewd and illegal way will also be mandated to undergo a re-education and re-orientation program on child protection, to be conducted by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
As well under the bill, using, coercing, forcing, or intimidating a street child or any other child to conduct illegal activities will see the perpetrator face the penalty of reclusion temporal.
Employers who violate Section 12, 12-A, and Section 14 of the Act will face a penalty of imprisonment of one year and one day to six years, or a fine of P100,000 to P400,000 or both, at the discretion of a court.
Section 12 of RA 7610 states that “children below 15 years of age may be employed except when a child works directly under the sole responsibility of his parents or legal guardian and where only members of the employer’s family are employed.” Section 12-A provides that the employer shall ensure the protection, health, safety and morals of the child. Section 14 states that “No person shall employ child models in all commercials or advertisements promoting alcoholic beverages, intoxicating drinks, tobacco and its byproducts and violence.”
The last amendment the bill seeks is addressed to Section 20 of RA 7610, which provides that children of indigenous cultural communities shall not be subjected to any and all forms of discrimination. The bill provides that the appropriate penalty is prision correccional in its medium period, as well as a fine of P50,000 to P100,000. Offenders shall also be required to undergo a re-education and re-orientation program on indigenous people’s culture of the PHilippines, to be conducted by the NAtional Commission on Indigenous Peoples or by the Philippine Task Force for Indigenous People’s Rights.
Other authors of the bill are Yu, Reps. Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado, Wilter Wee Palma II, John Marvin Nieto, Manuel Luis Lopez, Manuel Jose Dalipe, Ma. Lourdes Aggabao, Gus Tambunting and Rene Relampagos. / Ma. Victoria Palomar