PNP assures maternity leave won't affect efforts to recruit women

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A female officer of the Philippine National Police stands by her comrades.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 13) — Extended maternity leave is not going to keep the Philippine National Police (PNP) from recruiting women, its spokesperson Bong Durana assured on Tuesday.

"It's a biological reality, but it should not be a hindrance for anybody to enter the [PNP]," Durana told CNN Philippines' The Source. "Definitely it's a reality we have to adjust [to] — in terms of putting them in administrative work, in areas where they could avail of health services… It's not a concern. It's a reality we need to face."

When asked if the extended leave "turned off" police leadership, Durana said, "Definitely no."

Concerns regarding female recruitment were raised after Surigao del Sur Representative Johnny Pimentel said the quota for female officers should be doubled from 10 to 20 percent.

PNP top brass maintained it would stick to its quota, and even said it was well past it. About 29,900 out of the 180,000 police force is female.

But Police Chief Oscar Albayalde also spoke of "restrictions" in hiring women — especially now that a new Congress-approved Expanded Maternity Leave Bill extends paid pregnancy leave to 105 days.

"Remember there are restrictions kapag minsan babae, lalo na kapag nag-asawa iyan, nabuntis iyan, lalo ngayon 'yung maternity leave napakahaba," Albayalde said. "Inextend pa yata iyan 'yung maternity leave, so you could just imagine hindi mo magamit 'yung pulis for that span of time."

(Translation: Remember there are restrictions sometimes with women — especially if they marry and get pregnant, especially now that maternity leave is so long… [It] was even extended, so you can just imagine you can't use the police officer for that span of time.)

The Commission on Human Rights slammed the remarks as discriminatory, reminding the institution of requirements under the Magna Carta on Women, or Republic Act 9710. Under Chapter 4, Section 9, it states: "Within the next five years [since passage of the law in 2009], an incremental increase in the recruitment and training of women in the police force, forensics and medico-legal, legal services, and social work services availed of by women who are victims of gender-related offenses until fifty percent (50%) of the personnel thereof shall be women."

Durana said that they were working towards this goal — but he admitted it would be difficult to grow the police force until half of it were women.

"We are moving towards that, but that's impossible," said Durana. "We are a patriarchal society... although we want to accommodate the Magna Carta on Women, there are realities that you cannot just easily achieve gender parity."

The call to increase women on the police force comes amid flak over the alleged rape culture in the institution. A police officer was accused of raping a minor whose parents were detained last month, and two more officers were charged with rape in exchange for the release of a suspect.

The Center for Women Resources records at least 33 cases of violence against women attributed to police officers since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in 2016.

About 60 policemen were named respondents in the cases, more than a dozen of which involved minors as victims, the report showed. The abuses included rape, acts of lasciviousness and sexual harassment.

CNN Philippines Senior Digital Producer Lara Tan contributed to this report.