[PINOYWORLD Editor's Note: Full text of Sen. Pia S. Cayetano's speech in plenary today, May 18, 2009 about: (1) the insensitivity and inaction of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in relation to the new rape complaint by "Vanessa" against a US serviceman; and (2) allegations of corruption involving the P46-million funds for the Balikatan Exercises in 2007. The speech was referred in plenary to the following committees: Justice and Human Rights; Women, Children and Family Relations; Defense; and Foreign Relations.]
I. Advancement of women’s rights and women equality
Mr. President, 26 years ago, under the 1935 Constitution, Filipino women were not allowed to vote; women had little say in the management of the affairs of the country.
Over the years, women’s equal rights have slowly been acknowledged.
As of April 30, 1937, women have gained the right to vote. With the passage of the Civil Code in 1949, married women now make a will and dispose of her properties without the consent of her husband.
Laws on sexual harassment, marital rape, trafficking of, and violence against, women all have been passed in an effort to protect women’s rights. Likewise, to bolster the need to provide equal opportunities to women, the annual General Appropriations Act, since 1995, requires all government agencies to commit 5% of their budget to gender issues.
Today, women are involved in decision making levels, a number of women, hold high level positions in the government. In fact, we are headed by no less than a woman president.
But have we now suddenly reverted to the dark ages?
II. Vanessa’s rape case
Last April 19, on the heels of the acquittal of US Lance Corporal Daniel Smith in the Subic rape case of “Nicole,” what was supposed to be a night of fun turned out to be a horrifying experience for “Vanessa,” a 22-year old college student in a private university. After a night of partying in the company of friends, she found herself alone with a US Serviceman in the confines of a Makati hotel. Upon realization that she was misled, Vanessa tried to leave the room, but the accused slapped her, took her forcibly against her will and raped her.
Although Vanessa reported the incident to Gabriela and recounted her ordeal to the media, as of now, she has decided not to pursue her case in court.
Mr. President, I commend Vanessa for her courage in making public a very personal and humiliating experience. But by exposing this very personal and humiliating act, what did she get? Something tantamount to a scolding by no less than the representative of our government who is tasked to ensure that justice is served.
My heart goes out to Vanessa and what she has been through. Rape is so personal, no one can begin to understand the pain and anguish the victim will go though by recounting her ordeal in a court setting.
I wouldn’t be surprised, Mr. President, if Vanessa’s hesitancy in filing a case is influenced by her perception of the government’s poor handling of the rape case of Nicole. I wonder if the Department of Justice (DOJ) will be more proactive in protecting our women this time around.
Although the case of Nicole is the first ever criminal case against a US serviceman under the VFA that went to trial, it is reported that more than 3,000 cases, including abuse of women and children, have been filed against US servicemen at the height of the presence of US military bases in the country. But, all were dismissed. Mr. President, what does this say about our commitment to uphold women’s rights and their human rights?”
III. Ignorance of the law, the need for gender sensitivity
Mr. President, I was appalled and infuriated to read that our so-called “Justice” Secretary Gonzales had said that Vanessa should be “compelled” to press charges against her supposed rapist to prove her statements.
As quoted from GMAnews.tv, Gonzalez was reported to have said that “Vanessa’s” basis for not filing a complaint against the American soldier “is something I could not accept.” He further stated “If the girl is really violated why would she not complain? I think she should be compelled to complain,”
This kind of statement displays utmost insensitivity, and worse, ignorance of our laws. Rape is so intrusive, so damaging to one’s self-esteem, so humiliating and embarrassing.
Mr. President, it is not difficult for a person with average intelligence and with a compassionate heart to understand why a rape victim would be hesitant to testify.
Mr. President, by making such callous remarks instead of hearing Vanessa’s side or at least giving her the benefit of the doubt, Raul Gonzales has no business being justice secretary. He needs to learn basic gender sensitivity, which even law students are now taking up in law school. How do we expect our prosecutors and law enforcers to protect our women when the DOJ Secretary himself takes the worst anti-women stand I’ve ever seen?
Mr. President, our international commitments mandate gender sensitivity in the implementation of laws, most especially laws that are meant to protect the rights of women. In a Study of the Secretary-General of the United Nations entitled “Ending violence against women: from words to action, it is provided that
“States have concrete and clear obligations under international law to address violence against women, whether committed by state agents or by non-state actors. While circumstances and constraints allow for different types of action to be taken by a State in addressing violence against women, they do not excuse State inaction.