I met Menchie in one of the town fiestas in our province. Such acquaintance developed into an intimate relationship. After two months, I got Menchie pregnant, and this was discovered by her parents. The latter filed a complaint against me for Violation of Republic Act 7610, specifically child abuse. I must admit that Menchie is still 17 years of age. I intend to marry Menchie when she reaches legal age but her parents are firm on their decision to file a complaint. They claimed that even though we both consented to the sexual conduct, child abuse was still committed. Is this true?
The reason why any consensual sexual conduct with a minor is punishable under Republic Act (RA) 7610 was discussed by Supreme Court Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe in the case of Caballo vs. People of the Philippines (G.R. No. 198732, June 10, 2013):
“Based on this premise, jurisprudence settles that consent is immaterial in cases involving a violation of Section 5, Article III of RA 7610; as such, the argument that AAA and Caballo were sweethearts remains irrelevant.
“The Malto ruling is largely instructive on this point:
“For purposes of sexual intercourse and lascivious conduct in child abuse cases under RA 7610, the sweetheart defense is unacceptable. A child exploited in prostitution or subjected to other sexual abuse cannot validly give consent to sexual intercourse with another person.
“The language of the law is clear: It seeks to punish “those who commit the act of sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct with a child exploited in prostitution or subjected to other sexual abuse[s].
“Unlike rape, therefore, consent is immaterial in cases involving violation of Section 5, Article III of RA 7610. The mere act of having sexual intercourse or committing lascivious conduct with a child who is exploited in prostitution or subjected to sexual abuse constitutes the offense. It is a malum prohibitum, an evil that is proscribed.
“A child cannot give consent to a contract under our civil laws. This is on the rationale that she can easily be the victim of fraud as she is not capable of fully understanding or knowing the nature or import of her actions. The State, as parens patriae, is under the obligation to minimize the risk of harm to those who, because of their minority, are as yet unable to take care of themselves fully. Those of tender years deserve its protection.”
Applying the above-mentioned decision in your case, the fact that Menchie consented to the sexual conduct is of no moment. Consent and the sweetheart theory are not considered as defenses in cases of violation of RA 7610. The intention of the law is to protect the children because the latter cannot fully understand the nature of their actions, hence, the state must come in to protect their interest under the Doctrine of Parens Patriae. Thus, sexual abuse is committed the moment you engage in a sexual intercourse with a person of less than eighteen (18) years of age or over but unable to take care of herself because of physical or mental disability.
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.