House approves bill on stiffer penalties vs sexual harassment on 2nd reading

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives has approved on 2nd reading a bill seeking to impose stiffer penalties on people committing sexual harassment in the workplace, schools, and training institutions. 

Lawmakers on Tuesday, October 9, approved House Bill (HB) No. 8244 on 2nd reading through viva voce voting or a vote of ayes and nays. It would have be passed on 3rd and final reading before successfully hurdling the House. (READ: The many faces of sexual harassment in PH

The measure would repeal Republic Act (RA) No. 7877 or the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995.  

RA 7877 currently imposes a fine of P10,000 to P20,000 and jail time between one month to 6 months. If passed into law, HB 8244 would increase the penalties to a fine of P50,0000 to P200,000, but the length of imprisonment time would be the same. 

The House bill would also impose a fine of P20,000 to P50,000 for those who will violate the victim's right to privacy during the investigation, prosecution, and trial period.

HB 8244 seeks to expand the definition of sexual harassment as "an act, or series of acts, which may be committed physically, verbally, or visually or with the use of information and communications technology or any other means or technology within or outside of the place of employment, or a training or education environment that would result in an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for the employee."

The definition would cover acts committed by employers, teachers, instructors, and other persons of authority who will commit "any unwanted, unwelcome or inappropriate sexual advance, request or demand for sexual favor, regardless of whether the request or demand is accepted by the object of the sexual advances."

The heads of companies and educational and training institutions would be required to adopt a "comprehensive, detailed" written policy on sexual harassment, including a clear procedure on the investigation of sexual harassment cases.

They would also be mandated to create a Committee on Decorum and Investigation (CODI) that would receive complaints, investigate, and hold hearings on sexual harassment cases. 

The same committee would be tasked to conduct information dissemination campaigns to promote how to report cases of sexual harassment.

Companies as well as educational and training institutions must resolve sexual harassment cases within 15 days from the submission of the CODI’s report to the disciplining authority.

HB 8244 was approved on 2nd reading in the same week Gretchen Fullido filed criminal complaints against ABS-CBN executives for alleged sexual harassment and libel. 

The Ateneo de Manila University student council is also set to file a case with the university against a longtime male professor who allegedly sexually harassed several students.

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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