(MANILA BULLETIN) Senator Jinggoy Estrada has filed a measure seeking to make all information about sex offenders in the Philippines available to the public.
In filing Senate Bill No. 1291 or the proposed “National Sex Offender Registry Act,” Estrada said it is necessary for the government to establish a national database of sex offenders to protect and keep the public informed and which authorities can use to monitor and track them.
Aside from local law enforcement agencies, the senator said their foreign counterparts can also have easily availabe and accessible information about sex offenders in the Philippines.
“The many special penal laws against sex-related offenses so enacted of late shall be futile unless ample public protection and warning is provided for,” Estrada said in explaining the necessity of SB No. 1291.
He also said he finds it unfortunate that a number of sex offenders who have been apprehended and convicted were still able to victimize unsuspecting persons by relocating in another place.
The senator said the bill seeks to establish a national sex offender registration database that may be of use not only to the general public but also to various non-government organizations (NGOs) working for the protection of women and children who are often the target victims of sex-related offenses.
The bill mandates the Department of Justice (DOJ) to set up and handle the proposed National Sex Offender Registry Database where the names and other relevant details of sex offenders who reside or travel to the country can be pulled out from.
The said database will then be made available and accessible to the Philippine National Police (PNP), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and concerned law enforcement agencies.
It can be shared between countries and respective law enforcement agencies if deemed necessary for the proper registration and identification of sex offenders.
Under the bill, convicted sex offenders, prior to being released from imprisonment, would be required to register and regularly update the province, city, or municipality where they are residing, employed, or studying.
Convicted offenders have 10 days to update their registration if there are changes in their address, employment, or school. Those who fail to register will be meted with one to five years of imprisonment and a fine of P10,000.
On the other hand, those convicted in local and foreign courts shall remain in the registry permanently and would be required to appear at least once a year before the local police in their place or residence to verify their information.
The bill also mandates the DOJ and the PNP to conduct an information and education campaign to raise public awareness on the existence of the registry and ensure that law enforcement agencies are able to access and use it.
The senator said a number of countries have already enacted similar legislation after the United States passed its own national-level sex offender registration law in 1994.
“Hindi layon ng panukalang batas na ito na hiyain ang mga convicted sex offenders, bagkus, ang layunin nito para makatulong sa pagbabala sa komunidad sa kinakailangang proteksyon ng mga bata at lipunan sa krimen na kagagawan ng mga sexual predators (The purpose of this bill is not to shame convicted sex offenders, but rather, its purpose is to help warn the community about the necessary protection of children and society from crimes committed by sexual predators),” Estrada emphasized. -Hannah Torregoza/ Manila Bulletin