'No' means 'no': Solons, advocates push for stricter anti-rape law

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(SPECIAL REPORT)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 31) — Jane* was 13 when three men raped her on various occasions. The experiences haunt each moment of her life.

"Binaboy na po ako, ganun, sinira na po yung kinabukasan ko … Ayoko na pong maalala lahat, pero naiisip ko pa rin po lahat ng nangyari sa akin. Gusto ko na pong kalimutan. Lahat sila, gusto ko pong kalimutan, pero hindi ko po magawa," Jane said.

[Translation:I was violated. They took away my future. I want to forget everything but it kept on coming back. I want to forget. I want to forget all of them but I can't.]

Her perpetrators:  a drug user, a 60-year-old man, and her uncle.

The abuse led Jane to alcoholism and suicidal tendencies.

"Ako parang gusto ko mamatay na. Para po wala na po yung problema ko," she said.

[Translation: Sometimes I just want to die so I can forget all my problems.]

With her perpetrators on the loose, justice remains elusive for Jane, who is barely a teenager. It is for victims like her that lawmakers seek to amend a 20-year-old law on rape — mainly to raise the age of consent and simplify the definition of rape.

According to Republic Act 8353 or the Anti-Rape Law of 1997, rape is committed "when the offended party is under 12 years of age or is demented," even though there is no force, intimidation, deprivation of reason or consciousness, or grave abuse of authority.

In the Philippines, rape cases steadily increased from 2012 to 2015, according to the Philippine National Police's Women and Children Protection Center.

On average, three of four rape victims are children.

Reported-Cases-of-Rape-infographics_CNNPH.png  

The Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD) also said three children were abused each day in 2016.

Of these, at least 1,194 are children who were either sexually abused or exploited. Girls are almost six times more exploited than boys. In 2016, however, the number of sexually violated boys jumped to 57 from 13 in 2015.

Sexually-Abused-and-Exploited-Children.png  

Raising the age of consent

Children are most likely to become a victim of rape. In Jane's case, since she's already a year above the age of sexual consent which is 12, her abusers, if convicted, would get a lighter penalty.

Rape of children below 12 is considered statutory.

But the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), the government's policy-making and coordinating body on women and gender equality issues, wants this changed.

"If (someone) rapes a 15-year-old, he should be also getting a higher penalty because below 16 is still a child," said PCW executive director Emmeline Versoza.

Dagulo said the Council for the Welfare of Children, an inter-agency body with members from the DSWD, Departments of Education, Health, Labor and Justice, and other sectors, is studying the proposal.

A 2015 report of the United Nations International Children's Fund recommended raising the age of sexual consent in the Philippines from 12 to 16, which is also the universal average.

"Children below 16 are still innocent, and are not yet fully aware of themselves and their sexuality," Versoza told CNN Philippines.

At least four bills are pending in the House of Representatives proposing to amend the Anti-Rape Law, which includes raising the age of sexual consent.

The late senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago also filed a bill in the 14th, 15th, and 16th Congresses aiming to increase the age to determine statutory rape. So far, no such measure has progressed in the chamber.

For the DSWD, a child's is enough to conduct an investigation.

"Kahit yung bata ang nagsabi na may sexual abuse or intercourse, is enough for the DSWD to take over," Dagulo said, adding statements such as "may pinasok sa ari" (something was inserted in the genitals) and "dinala sa hotel" (the child was brought to a hotel) are enough.

Definition of rape

Another amendment that the PCW and some lawmakers want is to change the definition of rape as lack of consent.

Jane, like all other women, were raped because they said no, or were not able to give their permission.

"Antok na antok na po ako nun. Paggising ko po yung kamay niya po nandoon na po sa ari ko po," she said, referring to her uncle.

[Translation: I was so tired then. When I woke up, his hand was already in my private parts.]

For the two other perpetrators, it included drugging her to sleep.

"Dinala niya po ako ...  sa hotel. Tapos yun po, may pinainom po siya sakin tapos may pinaano po siya tapos nawalan na po ako ng malay. Tapos yung matanda rin po, may ginagawa din po sa akin," she added, this time talking about the old man and the drug user.

[Translation: He brought me to a hotel. He gave me a drink, and the next thing I knew I was unconscious. The old man also did something to me.]

"If a person says no, no. Hindi na kailangan ng evidence na punit-punit yung damit niya," Versoza said.

[Translation: The victims should need not prove their clothes are tattered.]

Culture of silence

The shame that comes with the abuse prevents victims like Jane from speaking up.

According to a 2017 report by nongovernment research organization Center for Women's Resources, a "culture of silence" still prevails among victims of violence against women because of social stigma, fear and embarrassment.

"In cases where their own family members are the perpetrators, victims hesitate to report because they do not want their relative to be imprisoned," the Center for Women's Resources said.

This was the case of Jane. She was afraid to tell her mother and her grandmother that she woke up with her uncle's hand on her private parts.

"Sa akin na lang po yung problema, ganun. Ayoko pong malaman din nila … Ayoko na po rin ng gulo," Jane said, helpless.

[Translation: I'd rather keep it to myself. I don't want them to know. I don't want to make a big deal out of it.]

The tipping point was when a 63-year-old friend of her mother, and another man who is a drug user, brought her to a hotel and drugged her.

Death penalty for rape

Whe Jane told her mother and her grandmother about the sexual abuse she experienced from the three men, she had to face a painful revelation.

They have been regular drug users, and she paid for their addiction.

"Sasabihin nila pampasaya nila yun. Eh pampasaya, pumapayat kayo, nagkakasakit kayo. Nag-iisip kayo ng ganyan, hindi kayo natutulog. Nakakagawa kayo ng masama dahil sa shabu na yan … Parang binenta ako, ganyan, binigay ako sa ganyan, binugaw ako. Binugaw ako," Jane said.

[Translation: They said it makes them happy. How come they're happy when they have turned skinny and sickly because of it? They can now think of doing bad things. They sold me and turned me into a prostitute.]

President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to put an end to drug use by, among others, reviving the death penalty.

The drug war has prompted the House of Representatives - with a supermajority on the side of the President - to pass the death penalty bill on third and final reading in less than a year, with only drug-related crimes on the list of punishable offenses.

It is now up to the Senate to decide on the revival of capital punishment.

Jane who believes her relatives' addiction prompted them to sell her, just wants a better life for her and her mother.

"Pinapanalangin ko na lang po sana na, paggising ko, masaya na po kami. 'Di na po nagsshabu mama ko, para ba po bang, yung pag gising ko, aasikasuhin ako ng mama ko pagpasok, may pera siya na maayos, galing sa marangal. Yung papasok po siya sa trabaho, tapos yung ngingiti po ako nang parang wala akong problema, parang wala po akong pinagdaanan," Jane said.

[Translation:I pray that when I'll wake up, we'll be happy again. That my mother has stopped using drugs, and she'll help me get ready for school. That we have money that came from honest work. That she'll have a decent work, and I'll smile like nothing happened.]

For her, death is not an option for her perpetrators.

"Hindi po. Siguro po maparusahan, pero mamatay hindi po," she said.

[Translation: I do not want them to die. They should be punished, but they should not be killed.]

*Not her real name

CNN Philippines' correspondent Triciah Terada contributed to this report.