Editor's note: The views expressed in this piece are the author's.
Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Recently, the Philippine National Police (PNP) accused The Center for Women Resources (CWR) for spreading fake news. This is after CWR released their record of at least 33 cases of violence against women attributed to police officers since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in 2016.
CWR records 16 rape cases that involve police officers from Cebu City; Binangonan, Rizal; Balayan, Batangas; Calamba, Laguna; Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo; Iligan City; Jaro, Iloilo; Marilao, Bulacan, and Manila. PNP, however, denies these claims. CWR responds with “We, in the Center for Women’s Resources (CWR), maintain that it is a legitimate research institution that has been publishing local, regional, and even international research studies on different women’s issues including violence against women, for 36 years now.”
Last October, a video of Director Guillermo Eleazar remonstrating Police Officer 1 Eduardo Valencia went viral. Valencia was arrested for allegedly raping a 15-year-old girl in exchange for her parents’ freedom. People online debated over PO1 Valencia’s statement. In handcuffs, men escorted Valencia in front of Director Eleazar who was surrounded by cameramen and news reporters. As he was approaching Eleazar, he said “Sir, hindi na po bago sa ating mga operatiba ang ganoon. Kapag may nahuli po tayong mag-asawang drug pusher, sir.” Eleazar replied with “Mismong bata, positive sa laceration … Iyang kalokohang ginagawa mo, kaya tayo nasisira dahil sa inyo.”
Some online users insisted that the police officer would not further incriminate himself by admitting that rape culture is common in their field. They were quick to correct that PO1 Valencia’s statement pertains to the rape accusations against policemen, and that parents usually makeup stories against them in order to be released.
Rape victims such as comfort women, peasant women, sex-for-freedom victims, urban poor and even female police officers share the same narrative. They are women who were harassed by people of authority.
Do we really need to argue over the statement? We should be outraged by the fact that one or two police officers use their power to harass and commit crimes. It is not how small the number of officers committing these “isolated cases” is, but how great the damage is to the victim. The fact that it exists and criminals get away with it represents the culture of impunity in our country. CWR based the number of cases on media reports since July 2016.
Policewomen even fall victim to their fellow officers. PO3 Jernie Ramirez of Puerto Princesa City Police Office allegedly raped a rookie policewoman. He was arrested and detained the following day. Five days before that, two Quezon City cops were arrested for “palit-puri” or sex-for-freedom case. Police Officer 1 Severiano Montalban III allegedly agreed to release a woman who was caught for gambling in exchange for sex. The woman was then asked by Police Officer 1 Jayson Portuguez to do another sexual act. Portuguez was arrested while Montalban surrendered.
The international campaign called One Billion Rising is the “biggest mass action to end violence against women in human history.” Women, headed by organizations such as Gabriela and National Federation of Peasant Women (Amihan), gathered at the Rizal Park last Nov. 25 for this. It was a call to action based on the fact that 1 in every 3 women on the planet is beaten or raped during her lifetime. This is equivalent to one billion women and girls. PNP is supposed to be part of this campaign, protecting women and children from all forms of abuse. Yet, with the series of arrests, we uncover a truth that has long been there. We deny that there is rape culture from the national police yet the news reports say otherwise.
Both police and military forces commit violence and human rights abuse. Militarization in the country has triggered mass trauma, affecting the psychological and physical health of peasant women and children. This has generated abuses such as threats, rape, sexual harassment consistent with military presence in communities. We expect President Duterte to condemn these acts yet we only hear speeches brewing with machismo. This further enables violence against women.
“We cannot expect a person coming from an institution which consistently fails to respect human dignity and uphold people’s rights to lead an agency which envisions empowerment, improved quality of life and social protection,” Zen Soriano, Chairperson of the National Federation of Peasant Women (Amihan) says.
The rape cases attributed to the Philippine National Police are but a reflection of the system of an agricultural country abused by the state.
We must condemn all forms of violence and abuse. These human rights violations perpetrated by officials who are supposed to be in charge of citizens’ safety stem from the macho-feudal and macho-fascist system that still exist. Victims are coming out and bravely reporting their experience. However, many are still afraid. The actual number of rape cases and sexual abuse attributed to PNP may be twice or thrice the number of recorded reports. This is mainly because justice and police protection have always been for the rich and people with connections. People of authority further oppress the poor. In Nueva Ecija, a peasant woman under the name “Lorena” allegedly incurred minor injuries after being shot by a hired goon. She went to the police station to show her wounds, the policemen replied with, “The shooters were not sharp enough because you’re still alive.”
“Policemen still view women as rewards and objects because this is how the President refers to women,” says Faye Cura, a feminist and writer. She recently launched a book entitled “Umaalma, Kumikibo,” an anthology of essays on violence and women that includes narratives of women farmers, widows of EJK victims, and comfort women.
Olivia Ahn, advocate of interpersonal communication through queer sexual and reproductive justice, also says that “comfort women survivors unto this day are seeking reparations from their respective countries, still struggling with severe post-traumatic stress disorder, intergenerational trauma, social stigma, and severely affected reproductive, sexual, and other health conditions (early hysterectomies being most common due to untreated sexually transmitted infection and diseases in the compounds and physical trauma).”
Rape victims such as comfort women, peasant women, sex-for-freedom victims, urban poor, and even female police officers share the same narrative. They are women who were harassed by people of authority. They are victims of the patriarchal, macho-feudal system that is prevalent in a country where rich landlords enjoy legalized land grabbing in the name of business. In a macho-fascist country, a plunderer remains at-large while 80 percent of Filipinos suffer from the effects of Rice Tariffication, TRAIN Law, and importation of goods. Minimum-wage earners fall prey to scams, even resort to stealing food and milk formula and are of course, immediately arrested and jailed while Imelda Marcos, guilty with seven accounts of graft, walk freely. This is how we are continually harassed by the justice system.
The rape cases attributed to the Philippine National Police are but a reflection of the system of an agricultural country abused by the state. Armed men have been abusing and raping women as recorded by the narratives of our comfort women. This will keep happening unless we recognize that such a system exists. This will keep happening until we rise and put an end to this violence.