Stand Up

lea sicat reyesZEPHYR

Just when I thought I have become immune to the President’s pronouncements, what he said on December 29 before a crowd in Kidapawan City, Cotabato was downright shocking.  What left me even more bothered is the absence of outrage.  It is as if we have collectively fostered an apathetic stance where people are not held accountable for neither their words nor their actions.

For those in the dark, allow me to quickly explain.  In his speech, the President admitted to going to the room of his family’s househelp and “tried to touch what was inside the panty.”  He left when the maid woke up only to return so he could, in his own words, “try to insert my finger.”

Aides are quick to defend him, of course.  They claim context as their defense.

I suddenly remember the statements made by another President of a different country caught on a hot mic while he was on a bus.  He talked about getting his way with women and, consequently, getting away with it.

I cannot, for the life of me, understand why we are still okay with this.  Shouldn’t we stand up and make sure people are held accountable for such despicable language and actions?

For this very reason, I want to make sure that young girls and women in general know when it is no longer okay, when boundaries have been crossed.  Knowledge is power and knowing our rights, particularly in a country with strong patriarchal tendencies, is the first concrete step in ensuring our protection from abuse.

There are many laws that protect us from sex crimes.  There’s the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children (VAWC) Act also known as Republic Act (RA) 9262 which categorizes violence into four forms: physical, sexual, psychological, and economic.

RA 7877 or the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995, for its part, defines sexual harassment as “committed by an employer, employee, manager, supervisor, agent of the employer, teacher, instructor, professor, coach, trainor, or any other person who, having authority, influence or moral ascendancy over another in a work or training or education environment, demands, requests or otherwise requires any sexual favor from the other, regardless whether the demand, request or requirement for submission is accepted by the object of said act.”  If the act committed does not fall under the reach of how RA 7877 defines sexual harassment, it can still be punished through Article 36 of RA7877 which focuses on acts of lasciviousness.  These acts are meant to “abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade, arouse, or gratify the sexual desire of any person.”  Here, “the relationship of the offended and the offended party does not matter.”

RA 8353 or the Anti-Rape Law of 1997, meanwhile, focuses on rape and sexual assault and enumerates the following as elements of both crimes:

  • Force, threat, intimidation
  • Offended party is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious
  • Fraudulent machination or grave abuse of authority
  • Offended party is under 12 years old or is demented, even though none of the circumstances mentioned above be present

Here is what a victim or a victim’s family can do.

  • If it happened at the workplace or in school, first inform appropriate offices: Human Resources, Principal’s Office, Guidance Office. Let the authorities of said institution know.
  • To pursue a criminal case, one has to file an affidavit at the fiscal’s or prosecutor’s office. The accused will have to answer the complaints lodged against him/her.  Only then will the fiscal or prosecutor ascertain whether there is probable cause or not.  If there is probable cause, the complaint will be filed in court for it to issue a warrant of arrest against the offender.
  • There is also a women’s desk in police precincts for immediate assistance.

(Source: Women vs Sexual Harassment: Here are the Laws You Should Know| October 24, 2017| https://preen.inquirer.net/60547/women-vs-sexual-harassment-laws-know)