Cases of violence against women and children involving men in uniform ‘alarming’

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 10 Feb) – The rising cases of violence against women and their children (VAWC) involving “men in uniform,” particularly policemen, is “very alarming,” women’s groups say.

“They are supposed to be enforcers of this law and yet many policemen are violators themselves,” Lyda Canson, chair emeritus of Gabriela Southern Mindanao, said Saturday.

According to the city government’s Integrated Gender and Development Division (IGDD), there were 4,272 reported cases of VAWC from 2004 to 2012, and 85 of these, or almost two percent, were committed mostly by policemen and soldiers.

Lorna Mandin, officer-in-charge head of the city’s IGDD, said ordinary citizens comprise the other 98 percent of violators but they do not have data on the specifics aside from those of the men in uniform.

IGDD records show that policemen posted the highest number with 54 cases, followed by soldiers with 11 cases, and retired personnel either from the Philippine National Police or from the Armed Forces with 8 cases. There was no data provided on the remaining 7 cases.

Mary Ann Sapar, spokesperson of Gabriela Women’s Partylist Southern Mindanao, said there is a need to single out the men in uniform as violators of Republic Act 9262 (Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004) because they are mandated to enforce the law and protect the people, including women, from any violation of their human rights.

She said even if there are only a few VAWC cases involving men in uniform in the last eight years, it is still alarming because the police now has no credibility nor integrity to implement the law when among their ranks are violators of the anti-VAWC law.

Sapar noted that the number of police violators of the anti-VAWC law has increased since 2004 when there were only 2 reported cases, while in 2012 it rose to 23. The IGDD records show that there were 3 VAWC cases involving policemen in 2005, 7 in 2006, 5 in 2007, 2 in 2008, 7 in 2009, and 5 in 2010; there were no available data for 2011.

Canson said “men in uniform are likely to commit VAW as a show of power and domination,” adding that there were many VAW cases perpetrated by policemen but not all are reported as the victims are under their control and power.

“Some policemen are ‘bantay salakay,’ especially those apprehended due to vagrancy,” she added.

Commenting on the statistics, city police chief Ronald dela Rosa told MindaNews in a text message: “The police are close to temptation because of their exposure to the public. That’s why they can easily womanize.”

He clarified that most of the VAWC cases involving PNP personnel were related to marriages. He said based on his “personal experience”, which means by witnessing the experiences of his colleagues, policemen are tempted to leave their wives for other women.

Dela Rosa said the number of reported cases increased because the wives of policemen are knowledgeable of the law. He pointed out that although inculcating values among policemen is a practice in the PNP, he said he cannot meddle with personal affairs of his men.

Canson said Dela Rosa’s statement was a “macho remark.”

“We are products of a patriarchal culture, which socialized us that women are commodity or sex objects for pleasure and profit,” she added.

Canson said it is just to correct the myth that “men normally have strong sex drive and are driven by instinct.”

For her part, Sapar said it is not about being tempted but a macho thinking.

“Having said that, Dela Rosa had only confirmed that he is guilty of committing VAW,” she said.

VAW is about power relation, Sapar explained, and men in power and authority are confident to fool or abuse women, treating women as a weaker sex.

Machismo, which is defined as “a strong or exaggerated sense of masculinity”, is a culture of the institutions among policemen, soldiers and other men in uniform, she noted.

“Policewomen were not even spared from sexual harassment and rape by their male colleagues,” she said, citing a case in Digos City reported last year.

“In order to appear strong and show force, men inflict violence. Men with guns like policemen are more confident to abuse women,” she said.

Most VAWC cases reported to the women’s groups were referred to the Davao-based non-government organization LUNA (Legal Resource Center for Women and Children) for legal assistance, Sapar said.

IGDD’s Mandin said that particularly with the PNP, her office continues to hold dialogues, lectures and orientations on gender, including laws that protect women.

Mandin said the number of VAWC cases has been increasing from 107 in 2004 to 1,015 in 2012, the highest number recorded.

She explained that a part of the increase was due to the improvement in reporting as women are more encouraged to report with the laws and agencies set up to extend support.

She added that most common nature of VAWC cases reported to the IGDD was economic abuse like abandonment, lack or no financial support from their husbands or partners. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro / MindaNews)