• ‘Change is coming’

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    [A keynote address delivered at the First International Research Conference on Gender and Criminal Justice, with the theme “Advocating Gender Responsiveness in the Criminal Justice System,” held at Camp Benjamin, in Alfonso, Cavite, on June 28.]

    OFFICERS and members of the Cavite State University (CvSU), Philippine Criminal Justice Researchers Society (PCJRS) and Philippine Association of Research Managers, Inc. (PHILARM)…

    Kay President Ricarte V. Castro ng PHILARM, sa ating minamahal na Vice President Diosdado Amante ng Philippine College of Criminology (PCCR), sa inyo po na aking mga kabalikat na umaasa sa isang magandang bukas para sa bansang Pilipinas, isa pong mapagpalayang umaga para sa lahat.

    To the organizers, I would like to convey my deepest gratitude and joy for conducting the 1st International Research Conference on Gender and Criminal Justice. Such recognition on the vital significance of research in dealing with gender issues in criminal justice delights me very much. Napakaimportante po ng ganitong pagpupulong sapagkat ito ay bahagi ng capacity building at empowerment ng yamang tao o human resources ng ating bansa.

    As researchers, we all realize that the empirical data and other pertinent information that we have collected during data gathering are not just numbers and simple recordings of “kuwentong buhay” or life experiences … nor are they mere piles of both expert and non-expert opinions. Collectively, the products of our quantitative and qualitative researches will form part of an intricately woven study that will redound to the benefit of the very respondents of our research and/or the people they represent. Evidently, I share with you the passion for research and the respect for the ethical considerations that must be observed in our study. Not only because I am a lawyer, and that it was a huge part of my jobs as former Legal Researcher and Branch Clerk of Court of the Supreme Court years ago, but more so because of a recent and deep involvement in research, as a graduate student and eventually, a degree holder of Doctor of Social Development.

    I graduated on June 28, 2015 from the College of Social Work and Community Development (CSWCD) of UP-Diliman. My Dissertation is titled “Examining Deaths Behind Bars: Toward Penal System Policy Reforms in the Context of Human Rights.” Evidently, it is about deaths of prisoners and inmates, and the contributing factors that bring about their untimely demise as persons deprived of liberty (PDLs). Nonetheless, there is more to this. In her endorsement of my dissertation to the CSWCD, Dean Jocelyn T. Caragay, my adviser, Dr. Judy M. Taguiwalo, the incoming Secretary of the Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD), wrote:

    The study also explored how gender impacts on the treatment and experience of women, men, gays and lesbians. Discrimination against gays and lesbians and the non-observance of the rights of pregnant women in prison are some of the initial results of the study, which could be elaborated in future research.

    (May I acknowledge the presence of Dr. Raymund Narag, who is here as one of the speakers and lecturers. He is an illustrious member of the profession because he is also an expert in the current problems of the Philippine jails.)

    This is my dissertation’s modest contribution to gender and development in the criminal justice system. The inclusion of gays and lesbians in my study stems from my firm belief in the equal protection of the law.

    The 1987 Philippine Constitution explicitly provides that “(n)o person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of laws” (emphasis supplied).

    Clearly, the framers of our Constitution, in coming up with those phrases for Article III, Section 1 did not distinguish which kinds of person may only be prosecuted or protected by our laws. Kahit sino po ay may karapatan. Kahit ano ang sexual orientation mo, kahit ano ang religious belief mo, kahit ano ang paniniwala mo, ikaw pa rin ay may karapatan sa Saligang Batas.

    The Constitution by itself espouses equality, for any kind of persons, be it men, women, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, or transgenders (LGBT). It did not even say whether the application of the mandate is exclusive to Filipinos or not. Hence, as a basic tenet in legal interpretation, “when the law does not distinguish, we should not distinguish.”

    There is a law, Republic Act No. 9262 (RA 9262) or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004, which is being attacked by some men as discriminatory for it is anti-male, thus, it violates the equal protection of the law. Bakit daw walang VAMC or Violence Against Men and Their Children?

    For everyone’s enlightenment, may I share that under the case of Jesus C. Garcia vs The Regional Trial Court Branch 41 of Bacolod, Rosalie Jaype-Garcia, et. al. (G.R. No. 179267, 25 June 2013), it has already been ruled that: “R.A. 9262 does not violate the guaranty of equal protection clause. Equal protection simply requires that all persons similarly-situated should be treated alike, both as to rights conferred and responsibilities imposed.”

    In summary, the said case explained:

    1. RA 9262 rests on substantial distinctions.

    2. The classification is germane to the purpose of the law.

    3. The classification is not limited to existing conditions only, and applies equally to all members of the same class. So, sa women, nandoon iyong lesbians…nag-i-equal sa lahat ng members of the same class. Iyong mga tunay na lalaki … para namang hindi ka tunay na lalaki kung ikaw ay nabubugbog. Sorry po, pero sa mga pagaaral ay kakaunti lang diumano ang mga lalaking nasasaktan o naaapi ng mga babae.

    Perhaps, it is still unknown to many that RA 9262 does not only single out the husband or father as culprit under the law. Clearly, in the same case, the Hon. Supreme Court said that the acts prohibited in the law “may likewise be committed against a woman with whom the person has or had sexual or dating relationship,” and that the “use of the gender-neutral word “person” who has or had a sexual or dating relationship with the woman encompasses lesbian relationships.” So, kahit po lesbian, pwedeng ma-prosecute under RA 9262, kung siya po iyong partner noong woman. Evidently, even if our laws recognize the rights of all regardless of their gender and sexual orientation, there is, of course, no room for abuse.

    Under RA No. 9262, the Public Attorney’s Office is ordered to represent without cost the petitioner (libre po ang serbisyo) in the hearing on the application for the petition on protection order (Section 13). Kaya pwede po kami tumulong sa korte on first come, first served basis. Unahan na po ng biktima ang akusado sa paglapit sa amin, para sa biktima na po kami.

    Last year, we had 75,684 cases involving women victims of the violation of RA 9262. Out of 45,887 terminated cases, there were 24,706 or about 53.84 percent favorable dispositions obtained by the public attorneys from representing women clients. Why only 53.84 percent favorable dispositions? We have women clients who have decided, in the middle of the legal battle, not to push through with the case. In some cases, we do not hear any more from these women-victims. Why? The reasons behind this could be a good subject for research.

    Bakit umuurong iyong mga nagsasampa ng kaso? Bakit, niligawan kaya ulit noong lalaki? O may pagmamahal pa rin? May pagtingin pa rin? Kahit konting pagtingin sa puso niya … kaya inuurong ang demanda. Kasi ang pag-ibig ay sadyang mahiwaga. Ang pag-ibig ay kapangyarihang hindi kayang pigilan. Sabi nga: “Pumigil ka ng nagsusuwagang kalabaw, huwag kang pumigil sa mga nag-iibigan.” Tama ba iyon? Parang tama, eh. Kaya sabi nabubulagan, ano po? Napapansin natin, halimbawa, iyong anak niya ginahasa ng partner niya. Aba eh, pinapatawad pa rin niya iyong partner niya kahit ginahasa na nito ang kanyang anak. Mas kinakampihan pa kaysa roon sa tunay niyang anak. Hindi ko sasabihin ang kaso … Sumalangit nawa ang nanggahasa na iyon. Nabitay po iyon!

    The findings relative to the research questions that I have mentioned could lead all GAD stakeholders, most especially the government, specifically the incoming administration of the President-elect, H.E. Rodrigo R. Duterte, to mechanisms which could help stop domestic violence in our country. Hindi lamang po sa mga durugista na nagbebenta ng ipinagbabawal na gamot o drug pushers galit ang ating incoming President, pati rin po sa mga lalaking nang-aabuso sa kanilang mga asawa at anak. Talaga pong hindi kapata-patawad sila.

    Aries Joseph Hegina, of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, reported last year that Davao City was the fifth safest city in the world. Let us all rally behind our incoming President to replicate what he was able to successfully do in Davao to all the barangays in our country, where domestic violence is still lurking if not menacingly engaged in destroying the dignity and lives of women and their children. This is the kind of change that all of us have been waiting and working for as researchers and GAD advocates—that is, witnessing how the fruits of our study make an ample impact in the lives of our people and our country, as a whole.

    Again, thank you to all the organizers. This activity that you all have conceived to be conducted here at Camp Benjamin is a vital contribution to the birth of the change for the betterment of the Filipino people that is now pulsating at the doorways of our country. Kaya po ang pamagat ng aking diskurso ay ang popular na bukambibig ngayon, “Change is Coming,” sumasalamin sa pumipintig na kagalakan at pag-asa na muling nananahan sa ating mga puso.

    Maraming, maraming salamat po! May God bless us all.

    The author is chief public attorney at the Public Attorney’s Office; has a PhD in Social Development, CSWCD, UP-Diliman, Quezon City; and was Senior Executive Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School. She was place fourth at the 1989 Philippine Bar Examinations, and is professor at the Ateneo de Manila University Law School.

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