House approves the expanded anti-sexual harassment bill

The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a measure amending the anti-sexual harassment law by expanding the forms or definitions of the criminal acts committed against women.

Co-authored by Camarines Sur 1st District Rep. Rolando G. Andaya, Jr. and Emmi A. De Jesus of GABRIELA, House Bill 5663 amends Republic Act 7877 or the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995.

Said the bill aims to strengthen the mechanisms that will monitor compliance with policies against sexual harassment in the workplace and in educational and training institutions.

Rep. Linabelle Ruth R. Villarica of the 4th District of Bulacan, chairperson of the House Committee on Women and Gender Equality said the measure expands the scope of RA 7877 by defining sexual harassment as an act, which may be committed physically, verbally, or visually with the use of information communication technology or any other means of technology within or outside the place of employment, training or education.

De Jesus said the acts to be included in the coverage of the law are unwanted, unwelcome or inappropriate sexual advances, demanding sexual favors by an employer, manager, supervisor, teacher, professor, coach, trainer or any person who have authority, influence or moral ascendancy over another's work, training or education, or making any offensive remark about the victim's sexual orientation.

The bill also covers those who have authority or influence in approving or granting appointments, reemployment or continued employment, granting favorable compensation, terms and conditions of employment, promotions or privileges, with respect to committing acts against employees and applicants for employment or promotion, or admission to an educational scholarships, payment of stipends, allowances or other benefits, privileges or considerations, with respect to committing acts against their students and applicants for admission or scholarship.

Andaya said it is the responsibility of the employer or head of the work-related, educational, or training environment or institution to prevent or deter the commission of acts of sexual harassment.

Any person who directs or induces another to commit any act of sexual harassment or who cooperates in the commission by another, without which it would not have been committed, shall also be held liable under the proposed act," Andaya said.

"A harasser is no longer confined to just being someone who has authority or moral ascendancy over the victim but anyone, including a colleague or subordinate staff, who makes gestures which are sexual in nature and create an intimidating, hostile or humiliating working, learning or training environment for the recipient of said unwelcome gestures," Andaya added.

Under the measure, the employer or head of office is mandated to adopt a comprehensive, detailed, and written policy on sexual harassment, outlining the detailed procedure for the investigation of sexual harassment cases and the administrative sanctions.

A Committee on Decorum and Investigation (CODI) shall be created in every offices or companies within one year of the agency's existence or initial operations exempting those that employ or have less than twenty people.

Violators are penalized by imprisonment of not more than six months, or a fine of not more than P200,000 or both at the discretion of the court.

The other co-authors of the bill are Reps. Luzviminda Ilagan (Party List, GABRIELA), Fernando Hicap (Party List, ANAKPAWIS), Carlos Isagani Zarate (Party List, BAYAN MUNA), Neri Colmenares (Party List, BAYAN MUNA), Terry Ridon (Party List, KABATAAN), Antonio Tinio (Party List, ACT TEACHERS), Gina De Venecia (4th District, Pangasinan), Emi Calixto-Rubiano (Lone District, Pasay City), Cinchona Cruz-Gonzales (Party List, CIBAC), Gus Tambunting (2nd District, Paranaque City), Sol Aragones (3rd District, Laguna), Regina Ongsiako Reyes (Lone District, Marinduque), Victoria Isabel Noel (Party List, AN WARAY), Jose Atienza (Party List, BUHAY), Monique Yazmin Lagdameo (1st District, Makati City), Erlinda Santiago (Party List, 1 SAGIP), Lorna Velasco (Party List, AMA), Kaka Bag-ao (Lone District, Dinagat Islands), Leni Gerona-Robredo (3rd District, Camarines Sur), Sitti Djalia Turabin-Hataman (Party List, AMIN), Delphine Gan Lee (Party List (AGRI), Estrellita Suansing (1st District, Nueva Ecija), Ibarra Gutierrez (Party List, AKBAYAN), Henedina Abad (Lone District, Batanes), Ma. Lourdes Acosta-Alba (1st District, Bukidnon), Josephine Veronique Lacson-Noel (Lone District, Malabon City), Sharon Garin (Party List, AAMBIS-OWA), Rose Marie Arenas (3rd District, Pangasinan), and Leah Paquiz (Party List, ANG NARS). 

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