MANILA (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN): Six to seven per cent of babies born to adolescent girls from 2016 to 2020 were fathered by men 10 years older than the mothers, while a majority of teen moms’ male sexual partners were three to five years older than them, according to government data presented to the Senate on Tuesday.
The numbers from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) gave senators, policymakers and public health advocates a picture of the alarming rise of adolescent pregnancies in the Philippines, many of which involve violations of the statutory age of sexual consent.
Presiding over the Senate hearing, Sen. Risa Hontiveros called on state agencies to work together to stem adolescent or teenage pregnancy.
Hontiveros said she was particularly concerned about the PSA data showing that 2,299 girls aged 10 to 14 gave birth in 2021, slightly higher than the 2,113 live births from the same age group a year before.
“As legislators and leaders of implementing agencies, everyone here in the room has a responsibility for each and every one of these young parents,” Hontiveros said at the hearing of the Senate committee on women, children, family relations, and gender equality.
Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, who initiated the inquiry, pointed out that while pregnancy among girls 15 to 19 years old had been going down since 2016, based on the PSA figures, the opposite happened among those aged 10 to 14.
From 2016 to 2020, live births from that age group rose by 11%, the data showed.
“According to the PSA report, majority of the registered adolescent live births involved men who were three to five years older than the girls,” said Angara, chair of the Senate youth committee.
“Even more concerning was the data on fathers who were more than 10 years older than the teenage mothers, which the PSA pegged at 6% to 7% annually from 2016 to 2020,” he added.
The PSA figures were supported by a separate data set from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which found that a total of 203,085 Filipino girls aged 10 to 19 gave birth in 2016.
The number slightly dipped in 2017 (196,478) and 2018 (183,000).Dr. Leila Joudane, UNFPA country representative, said 59 percent of registered adolescent births in the Philippines were fathered by a man older than 20 years old.
“Teenage pregnancy is not only a health and education problem, but an economic development issue,” she said.
“We need to promote men and boys’ engagement. It’s not just an issue of women, of adolescent girls only. It’s an issue of [the] entire society,” she added.
The data prompted Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri to plead with Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla and Philippine National Police chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. to arrest and prosecute adult men who enter into sexual relationships with minors, noting that Republic Act No. 11648, signed into law in March 2022, raised the age of sexual consent from 12 to 16.
“I urge the PNP and the DOJ (Department of Justice) to immediately prosecute these violations of the statutory rape age law. Rape is a heinous crime,” Zubiri told reporters.