Age of consent in the Philippines: Is it really just 12 years old?

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age of consent
A map showing the differing ages of consent around the world, which pegs the Philippines at age 12.

Questions about the age of consent in the Philippines are among the most frequent online search terms relating to the country.

This, of course, could lead to some pretty grim conclusions about what motivates people to ask such a question.

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However, to be charitable, many of those asking may just be trying to get to the truth after reading hugely misleading claims.  

All across the internet are articles that compare the age of consent across the world, and most of them peg the Philippines — alongside Nigeria — at the age of 12.

While this is technically correct, the facts of the matter are much more complicated.

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The Philippines has an extremely complex and stringent set of rules and laws on this issue. For example, adults — including stepfathers — can be arrested just for being in the company of their partner’s children if they happen to be under 18. 

So, while a 12-year-old is legally considered able to consent to having sex, there is another law the Revised Penal Code that trumps this:

Article III, Section 5. Child Prostitution and Other Sexual Abuse.

Children, whether male or female, who for money, profit, or any other consideration or due to the coercion or influence of any adult, syndicate or group, indulge in sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct, are deemed to be children exploited in prostitution and other sexual abuse

So, it would seem highly unlikely that anyone could even try to claim that sex with a child didn’t involve any “coercion”, “influence” or “any other consideration”.

On top of this, there are Articles 337–338 that define sex with a girl aged 12–18 as seduction, which is also illegal. And then there’s Article 343 that defines eloping with a girl 12–18 as consented abduction, which is also outlawed.

Furthermore, under Article 247, being caught by the girl’s parent(s) ‘in the act or immediately thereafter’… is essentially a death sentence. The law reads: “Any/All assault & battery suffered by the seducer will be legal, completely legal (as per ‘If he shall inflict upon them physical injuries of any other kind, he shall be exempt from punishment).” 

And then, as referenced above, there is Republic Act 7610, or the  “Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act”. Under this it is illegal for “any person who shall keep or have in his company a minor, 12 years or younger 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 place” unless there are family ties or some other legal bond or obligation involved.

With all this taken into account, the de-facto age of consent in the Philippines is a solid 18. 

So why does the age of 12 appear anywhere in the legal code? 

Although not explicitly stated, this is to avoid criminalising entire tribes or cultures that have entirely different attitudes and practices related to sex and marriage. Whether it is right or wrong that these should be catered for is a matter for debate.

Either way, a law to officially raise the age of consent to 18 is currently passing through the senate.

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