GenSan to create task force vs. rape

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/2 Dec) – Alarmed with the rising cases of rape and sexual assault, the city government is set to create a special task force that will spearhead a massive campaign against the menace and address the needs of the victims.

Dr. Antonieta Odi, medico-legal officer of the City Integrated Health Services Office (CIHSO), said Thursday the move is part of the immediate initiatives identified by the local government to help curb the reported rape and sexual assault incidence in the area that already reached 179 cases since January.

“We’re launching a citywide campaign to make everybody aware of the gravity of the problem that we’re currently facing regarding rape and enjoin our residents to become more vigilant and help run after the suspects or offenders,” she said.

Odi said the creation of the proposed task force was an offshoot of a consultative meeting on rape and sexual assault cases organized by the city council’s committee on women and children protection.

During the meeting, which was joined by local officials and representatives from various government agencies and non-government groups, she said it was agreed that a special body should be set up to effectively address the problem.

Odi said the task force will be composed of officials and representatives from the CIHSO, City Social Welfare and Development Office, General Santos City Police Office and various non-government organizations.

She said it will tap the officials of the city’s 26 barangays to act as local coordinators for the task force.

Odi said among the task force’s proposed strategies are the launching of a citywide information and education program, distribution of campaign materials against rape like stickers and leaflets, reorientation of newly-elected barangay officials, education program for parents in coordination with the schools, activation of hotline numbers and the establishment of an identification system for drivers of public utility vehicles.

She said the task force will set up a one-stop center for rape victims at the city hospital that will mainly cater to victims of rape and child abuse cases.

The center will be directly manned by a nurse, a psychiatrist, a social worker and policemen and will be backed up by a lawyer, she said. “This will be a continuing initiative and there are initial plans to institutionalize these interventions later on,” Odi said.

Supt. Rolly Octavio, deputy city police director for operations, said they are presently evaluating the status of the reported rape and sexual assault cases in the city in support of the operationalization of the task force.

“We’re updating our information database regarding the rape cases, establishing the identities of the victims and their present status,” he said.

Octavio said they are studying other possible assistance for the rape victims or complainants, whom they found to be usually reluctant or quite shy about reporting their plight to the police.

Based on records from the CIHSO’s medico-legal office, the reported incidence of rape and sexual assault in the city already increased by 50 cases as of November this year compared to the 129 cases recorded in 2009.

It said 75 percent of the victims of the reported rape cases this year were children, the youngest of whom was three years-old.

Some of the recorded cases involved drivers of trisikads (bicycles with sidecars) and other public utility vehicles as well as gang-rapes perpetrated by members of gangs and fraternities based in some secondary schools in the city. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)