President Rodrigo Duterte has signed into law the bill raising the age of sexual consent from 12 to 16 years old.

The signed copy of Republic Act (RA) No. 11648 or an “Act Providing for Stronger Protection Against Rape and Sexual Exploitation and Abuse” was released to the public on Monday.

The law aims to provide more protection for young people against sexual exploitation and abuse.

It amended RA 8353 or the “Anti-Rape Law of 1997.”

According to the new law, rape is committed by a person who has carnal knowledge of another person “when the offended party is under 16 years of age or is demented, even though none of the circumstances mentioned above be present.”

“Provided, that there shall be no criminal liability on the part of a person having carnal knowledge of another person under 16 years of age when the age difference between the parties is not more than three years, and the sexual act in question is proven to be consensual, non-abusive, and non-exploitative: Provided, further, that if the victim is under 13 years of age, this exception shall not apply,” it added.

For a sexual act to qualify as “non-abusive,” undue influence, intimidation, fraudulent machinations, coercion, threat, physical, sexual, psychological, or mental injury or maltreatment, either with the intention of, or through neglect, during the conduct of sexual activities with the child victim should be absent.

The seduction of a minor, 16 and over but under 18 years of age, committed by any person in public authority, priest, home-servant, domestic, guardian, teacher, or any person who, in any capacity, shall be entrusted with the education of custody of the minor seduced, will be punished by prision correctional in its minimum and medium periods.

The penalty next higher in degree will be imposed upon by any person who shall seduce his sister or descendant, whether or not she is a virgin or over 18 years of age.

The new law also defines children who indulge in sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct for money, profit, or any other consideration or due to coercion or influence as “exploited in prostitution and other sexual abuse.”

The Department of Education was also mandated to include in the basic education curriculum and teach age-appropriate subjects concerning the rights and protection of the children in relation to the law. John Ezekiel J. Hirro