Bagong Henerasyon Party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman filed on Wednesday House Bill 8440, which seeks to declare the act of child marriage, its facilitation and solemnization as "public crimes." A copy of the bill was sent to House media on Thursday.
"These acts are grave form of child abuse and exploitation as they gravely threaten and endanger the survival and normal development of children physically, emotionally and psychologically and can be initiated by any concerned individual," the bill read.
Herrera-Dy, who chairs the House Committee on Women and Gender Equality, said the bill also seeks to explicitly void from the very beginning (ab initio) all child, early and forced marriages (CEFM) in the country.
Herrera-Dy said CEFM is a form of violation against women and girls, noting that 15 percent of women aged 20 to 24 years old in the Philippines were first married or in union before 18.
The proposed law would impose penalties against solemnizing officers, parents, guardians, or adults who arranged and consented to a child marriage.
The solemnizing officer who solemnized child marriage shall be meted the following penalties: PHP25,000 fine, suspension of license, and required seminar attendance for the first offense; PHP50,000 fine and forfeiture of license for the second offense; and fine and imprisonment for the third offense.
For parents or guardians who caused, facilitated arranged and consented to a child marriage, the following penalties shall be imposed: suspension of parental authority for six months to one year for the first offense; permanent protection order in favor of the child for the second offense; and imprisonment for the third offense.
Meanwhile, the adult who contracted a child marriage with a minor 12 years and under or who is 10 years or more his junior shall be meted a penalty of prison mayor in its maximum period as provided for in Republic Act 7610, or the law against child abuse.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development shall be the lead implementing agency tasked to create programs that will address the prevalence of child marriage and provide appropriate services to children who were forced to enter into child marriage.
Herrera-Dy also asked the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) and National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to work hard on generating consensus and binding changes on marriages practices.
"It would greatly help if the NCMF and NCIP are able to convince the imams and religious leaders of the IPs to reform marriage practices. I am hoping for efforts running parallel to our work in Congress," she said.