The Supreme Court has urged Congress to amend Republic Act 7610 or the Anti-Child Abuse Law imposing stiffer penalties for acts of lasciviousness against children below 12 years old.
The SC made the request for statutory amendment on a specific provision of the law in its decision last March 12, copy of which recently furnished both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
In particular, the high court sought for "legislative correction" on the penalties imposed under Section 5(b), Article III of RA 7610.
The SC questioned why the law imposes lower penalty on cases where victims are less than 12 years old as compared to cases where the victims are 12 to 18 years old.
The law imposes maximum penalty of reclusion temporal medium or imprisonment of 12 to 20 years for those who committed acts of lasciviousness against children below 12 years old while it imposes maximum penalty of reclusion temporal medium to reclusion perpetua or imprisonment of up to 30 years for cases where victims are 12 to 18 years old.
The high bench believed that this discrepancy is against the clear intent of the law, which is to provide for stronger deterrence and special protection against child abuse.
“It is a basic rule in statutory construction that what courts may correct to reflect the real and apparent intention of the legislature are only those which are clearly clerical errors or obvious mistakes, omissions, and misprints, but not those due to oversight, as shown by a review of extraneous circumstances, where the law is clear, and to correct it would be to change the meaning of the law. Thus, a corrective legislation is the proper remedy to address the noted incongruent penalties for acts of lasciviousness committed against a child,” read the ruling.
Apart from Congress, the Court also sent copies of its decision to the Department of Justice, the Office of the Solicitor General, the Office of the Court Administrator, and the Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals for their guidance and information.
The SC made the ruling as it affirmed the conviction of Salvador Tulagan by San Carlos City, Cebu regional trial court for sexual assault and statutory rape under R.A. 7610 and Revised Penal Code.