Volunteer nurse accuses soldier of sexual abuse

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/01 October) – A volunteer nurse in Maguindanao alleged she was sexually abused by a Marine soldier on the night of Sept. 17, provincial health officer Dr. Tahir Sulaik today said.

Sulaik said that “Bella” (not her real name) alleged in a report to him that she was molested by one Pfc. Clarito who was reportedly drunk at the time and forcibly entered her room.

Clarito’s superiors have refused to give the full identify of the soldier.

Bella, a 21-year old registered nurse, is assigned in Barangay Lapaken in Datu Blah Sinsuat town.

Sulaik called the incident an “unacceptable and grave attack to noble volunteerism work.”

Bella in her report said she was awakened upon sensing that somebody was lying beside her and was molesting her.

She said she then screamed for help to the other medical workers who were staying in the same bunkhouse. Her colleagues drove out Clarito from the place.

Three hours after, around 2am on September 18, Clarito came back bringing with him a firearm, Bella’s report added.

But it was not clear in the complaint report what happened after the soldier returned.

Sulaik condemned the reported attack on Bella saying the nurse offered to serve poor communities where her services are most needed without thinking of her security and the meager pay.

As a volunteer nurse, Bella only receives an P8,000 honorarium.

“It is so painful to realize another health worker will suffer this way,” he said over the phone.

The health official said Bella’s mother recently passed away, and the incident added to her grief.

“The victim is determined to push the case and we will be with her in this battle”, Sulaik added.

The provincial health office has sent its complaint to the national headquarters of the Philippine Marines.

Brig. Gen. Alexander Balutan, the commanding officer of 1st Marine Brigade based in Lebak, Sultan Kudarat said they received the report on Monday, September 30.

“We have to see yet the formal complaint, but what we have learned is that our bachelor soldier is a suitor of the nurse. I think there is a misinterpretation here. What we knew [is that] the two are communicating, so I think molestation is an overstatement at the moment until we can ferret out the truth after the conduct of investigation,” Balutan said.

He assured he will not tolerate abuses by his men.

Balutan, however, said he was disappointed that the issue has reached the media and to their national headquarters even before he was informed as the soldier’s immediate superior.

“We follow a chain of command. It would be better if Dr. Sulaik has discussed to me the problem. We have our own mechanism in addressing the grave offense of our men,” he said.

In September 2010, a volunteer nurse from RN HEALS, an organization of nurses assigned in far flung communities was gang-raped and physically abused in South Upi, Maguindanao.

“Florence,” as the victim was called in the media, survived but has not obtained justice yet. (Ferdinandh Cabrera/MindaNews)