In a statement, the court said it has directed that a copy of its March 12, 2019 decision in People v. Tulagan, be furnished to Congress as reference for possible statutory amendments on the maximum penalty for lascivious conduct under Republic Act 7610 (Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act).
The Court explained its concern that despite the intent of RA 7610 to provide for deterrence and protection against child abuse, the penalty for violations when the victim is under 12 years old is lower than the penalty when the victim is 12 to 18 years old.
The Court referred to the maximum penalty of reclusion temporal medium for lascivious conduct under RA 7610, when the child victim is under 12 years of age; and when the victim is 12 years old and below 18 years old, or 18 or older under special circumstances, i.e., are unable to fully take care of themselves or protect themselves from abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation or discrimination because of a physical or mental disability or condition, which is reclusion temporal medium to reclusion perpetua.
“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,” the Court stated.
The Court also directed that copies of its decision be furnished 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.
Justices Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe, Marvic Mario Victor M. Leonen, and Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa wrote separate opinions.