Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla on Friday said they are seeking to establish guidelines that will prevent settlement in cases of incestuous rape and child abuse.
Remulla issued the remark following a meeting with officials of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT), and the Child Protection Network Foundation (CPN) regarding incestuous rape.
“Ito’y isasangguni namin sa Court Administrator at marahil susulat kami sa Chief Justice upang makaroon ng guidelines ang Korte Suprema sa mga courts natin… na wag ‘pumayag sa aregluhan ng ganitong mga kaso,” Remulla said.
[We will consult with the Court Administrator and maybe write to the Chief Justice so that there would be guidelines for our courts not to agree with negotiations regarding those cases.]
According to Remulla, the attitude of the government in such cases must be “non-negotiable.”
“‘Yung dating kalakaran na na-aareglo ang mga bagay-bagay, dito dapat hindi na tayo pumayag sa areglo kasi mangyayari muli ‘yan kapag pinayagan nating manatili ‘yung mga taong walang pinagsisisihan o walang pinagbabayaran,” he said.
[There is this practice of entering into a settlement, but with these cases, we should not agree because it will happen again if we allow (suspects) to go scott-free.]
‘State of emergency’
For Remulla, the country is in a “state of emergency” when it comes to the sexual abuse of children.
“Kaya ‘yan ang isang pinaguusapan namin kanina kung ano ang dapat gawin sa bawat opisina upang mapatupad ‘yung ating adhikain na itigil na itong epidemic na ito, epidemya. This is an epidemic without vaccine,” he said.
[That's what we've discussed, how to stop this epidemic. This is an epidemic without vaccine.]
According to Child Protection Network Foundation executive director Bernadette Madrid, 1 out of 20 Filipino children experiences sexual violence with the majority of the perpetrators being family members.
She said that in 2020, two million Filipino children experienced grave online sexual abuse and exploitation. Madrid further said that the Philippines is known as being “the hub of live stream of sexual abuse” around the globe.
Meanwhile, data from the DSWD showed that more female children reported cases of incest with 852 cases and one case was reported for male children from 2019 to 2022.
“Ganon kalala ‘yung ating problema. And in one of the interviews of the foreign perpetrators of OSAEC, tinanong bakit, why do you think sa Pilipinas ganoon? ‘Yung sagot kasi sa PIlipinas ang daling maghanap ng isang adult na mag titinda ng kanyang anak,” Madrid said.
[That's how serious the problem is. And in one of the interviews of the foreign perpetrators of OSAEC, it was asked why it is such a big problem in the Philippines. The answer was it is very easy for an adult to sell one's child.]
Madrid also said that the 2015 National Baseline Study on Violence Against Children in the Philippines was the last widespread survey on the subject.
She said that based on the study, only 1% of child sexual abuse cases were reported to authorities.
“The thing is, we don’t need to see a trend, whether it’s going up or down, by its very nature, the fact that 1 out of 20 Filipino child experience sexual violence, we should already do something about it, because that’s already very high by itself,” she said.
Madrid also welcomed an increase in reports of child sexual abuse cases, saying this means that more and more people are being open about their experiences.
“Bakit? That means they’re seeking help, okay, kasi most people will say na, uy pangit ‘yan na nag-increase ‘yung reports. Not in this case. In this case, we want reports to increase because that means they are seeking help,” she said.
Katrina Legarda, CPN National Network Director, also questioned why the word “incest” had no direct translation in Filipino.
“Ano ‘yun sa Tagalog? Wala. Wala, right? [What is it in Tagalog. None, right?] What does that say to you, di ba? It might say to you that it’s always kept in secret. That’s what it means. Not talked about, frowned upon, and kept to themselves. And it happens among the very rich and the very poor. Incest,” Legarda said.
Meanwhile, DICT Undersecretary Anna Mae Lamentillo said the DICT has the power to shut down websites linked to the exploitation of women and children.
“DICT actually has the power to shut down websites… all these websites used to push ‘yung mga cybercrimes and cyberporn, exploitation of children and women, in coordination with the DOJ and DILG, can actually shut down websites to put an end to all of this,” she said.
For the DSWD, Asec. Romel Lopez said the agencies must coordinate with each other regarding their programs.
“Ang nakikita po natin dito, may programa ang DSWD, may programa ang DILG, DOJ, and so on and so forth. Kailangan lang po talaga namin mapagtagpo and then para doon mas marespondihan natin ng akma’ yung pangangailangan ng ating kababayan,” he he said.
[What we are seeing is that there is a DSWD program, a DILG program, DOJ and so on and so forth. What we need right now is to realign and come up with a response that will address appropriately the needs of the public.]
DILG Undersecretary Margarita Gutierrez, meanwhile, said they seek to empower the barangays.
“So kailangan namin i-empower yung aming mga barangay captains na mag sabi, mag report, at isumbong ito. So we will have to have dialogues with them soon,” Gutierrez said.
“We will make sure na you know ma-empower natin yung mga captains na ito para yung mga ganitong reportorial kaagad magawa kaagad at masabi sa mga LGUs,” she added.
[We need to empower our barangay captains to have these [cases] reported. We will have our dialogues with them soon.] — RSJ, GMA Integrated News