“There are many cases of VAW (violence against women) committed by soldiers, police and the like and not a single perpetrator has been punished.” – Obeth Montes, Gabriela
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – More and more women and minors become victims of violence against women (VAW) perpetrated by state forces, said the progressive women’s group Gabriela.
According to the group, since 2010 up to the third quarter of 2014 there are 42 cases of VAW committed by police, 30 by military, 14 by local government officials, 13 by politicians, nine by US military and two by Presidential Security Guards (PSG).
Lana Linaban, secretary general of the Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) said, “That justice comes excruciatingly slow for those victimized by a growing number of perpetrators from the ranks of those in uniform, holding positions of power, wealth and influence shows the alarming deterioration of the Philippine justice system and the growing impunity to the detriment of women and children from the poorest sectors of our society.”
Obeth Montes, deputy secretary general of Gabriela meanwhile criticized President Benigno S. Aquino III for not acting on cases of VAW perpetrated by “persons of authority.”
“What is Aquino doing? Who is he protecting? These men in uniform? There are many cases of VAW committed by soldiers, police and the like and not a single perpetrator has been punished,” Montes said during a press conference last Nov. 19, Wednesday.
The case of Sienna
On May 9, 2013, Sienna, who was then 16 years old was allegedly raped by two soldiers from the Philippine Army’s 76th Infantry Battalion in Mindoro. Sienna’s mother, Suzette, said they went to the birthday party of the commanding officer of the Army’s 76th Infantry Battalion that night, just a few meters from their house in Paluan, Occidental Mindoro.
Between 10 to 11 p.m., Suzette noticed that Sienna was no longer around. “I decided to go to our house thinking that she just went home,” she said during the press conference, trembling as she recounted the night she saw her daughter inside their house.
“When I opened the door, it was dark because the gas lamp was unlit, although it still has light when we left the house. Then suddenly, someone ran to the kitchen and ran out the house. When I lit the lamp, I saw two soldiers standing next to my daughter who was on the floor; her clothes and hair disheveled.” Suzette was too emotional to finish her testimony during the press conference.
According to the fact sheet provided by Gabriela, when Suzette saw the soldiers, she asked why they were inside the house with the lamp off. The soldiers said some male youth was running after Sienna that is why they followed her. Suzette went outside to ask the neighbors but she was told that no one went out that night. When she went back to the house, the soldiers appeared to be questioning Sienna. She again asked the soldiers why they were inside the house with the lamp off and why they were questioning her daughter. The soldiers just told Suzette that they will investigate the incident, then left.
When Suzette asked her daughter what happened, Sienna was only able to say that someone pulled her leg. Then she just stopped talking. “She’s just stared blankly, covering her mouth with her hands,” said Leony Entena of Gabriela Southern Tagalog.
Suzette said she sought help from the barangay officials but to no avail. “Through our network in Southern Tagalog, they got to communicate with us,” Entena said.
In May this year, Suzette and the rest of her family went with Entena to Manila to seek medical help for Sienna, who was still not talking. “For one year, Sienna did not talk. She was always aloof and kept a blank stare,” Entena said.
Sienna was confined and was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Chronic Bipolar Mood Disorder. She was treated and is in a better condition now, said Entena. She is now talking and had recalled how the two soldiers raped her that night. Sienna was also able to reveal that prior to the May 2013 incident; she was also raped by another soldier, certain Cambas from the 80th IB.
Entena said the family, through the help of Gabriela and other women’s institutions would pursue the case against those who were identified by Sienna.
“Rose,” who’s now 18 has experienced the same fate in the hands of a PSG. She was 15 then.
Rose was at the Gabriela office on Wednesday, Nov. 19, after the scheduled promulgation of her complaint against Staff Sergeant Walter Candelaria. It was rescheduled on Nov. 25, when the world commemorates the International Day to End All forms of Violence Against Women.
The same date has also been recognized as National Consciousness Day to End Violence Against Women and Children by virtue of Republic Act 10398, a law sponsored by GWP and signed into law in March 2013.
In an interview with Bulatlat.com, Rose encouraged all victims, especially those who have not yet come out to stand and fight against VAW. “It is saddening that it is just happening all over again,” Rose said referring to the rape cases involving men in authority. “Being in authority, they should be the ones helping the victims of this atrocious crime and not the ones perpetrating it,” she added.
Rose said Gabriela has helped her to move on and also stand against VAW. She said now, she is able to share her experience and educate young women like her on VAW.
Monique Wilson, global director of One Billion Rising said this crime against women perpetrated by those in authority should be stopped. That is why, she said, next year’s theme for One Billion Rising is “revolution.”
“We will not stop to demand for justice. The government has to have a political will to stop these atrocities because they are in power. But they are not doing anything and impunity remains. That is why our action now is more radical. We should act, stand up, and say this is not acceptable and this (VAW) has to stop,” Wilson said.
Linaban also said that GWP is also pushing for amendments to the 1997 Anti-Rape Law. “House Bill 6170 proposes to rewrite the 1997 Anti-Rape Law to highlight the aggravation of rape if the accused held a position and is in fact a person of authority,” Linaban said. The amendments, she added, likewise gives added weight to the victims’ testimony and recognizes how women can be victimized several times and forced into silence in the face of threats from influential and powerful perpetrators.
Linaban also said the increase in the number of cases proves that the existing anti-rape law is not enough to punish persons in authority. “We must push for HB 6170 so that public officials, men in uniform, and clergy who use and abuse their power to inflict violence can be more easily brought before the bars of justice.”