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Crime and abuse, a constant

The case of 18-year-old senior high school student Irish Mae Payonga of Camaligan, Camarines Sur, who was robbed, raped, and then murdered last October 30 in Pili, Camarines Sur, stirred the hornet’s nest.

The rape-murder disturbed the quiet of the long days and nights of the Pandemic lockdowns. It agitated and aroused public interest and support once more over the apparent emergence of crime and violence around. Rallies and the voices of anti-crime and violence advocates from all sectors filled the radio lanes and social media. Then the police solved the case with the arrest of a “confessed perpetrator”. Is Irish Mae’s fate a matter of femicide? Or a case of a drug-crazed killer or a poor desperate man out to rob and then is forced to kill.

I remember my late brother, Dante La Jimenez, who led a passionate anti-crime and corruption crusade in the 90s until his passing in 2020. But crime and corruption never stopped. They worsen. If he had been alive, he would realize the times are a-changing. But those who hold the rein of power to make change are never changing. We need a radical paradigm of change and strategy to stop criminality decisively.

Abuse, a constant

Child abuse has remained constant even during the Pandemic. It is a global crisis—a global tragedy. Crimes against women and children persist. All types of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, have intensified.

In many of my exchanges with Barangay social workers and TBM women from the Ilaw ng Kababaihan, I hear reports of girls as young as three years victimized by physical and sexual abuse from their kin. I know of instances where the perpetrators are either the father, the uncle, or the cousin. Unfortunately, when I talk to the victims and other affected family members, they do not know the law that they have the right to prosecute because the culprits are their source of bread and butter.

In Camarines Sur and Albay, the local Police Provincial Office and DSWD have reported an alarming increase in cases of abuse and violence against children since the COVID-19 outbreak. Cases of violation of RA 7610 or the special law on the protection of children rose, especially when children are left alone at home. The surge was not only in the Covid cases but in cases of rape, lust, and unjust vexation. The DSWD and women and children rights advocates and CSOs, including TBM, have consistently called for collaboration among all agencies and partners to protect and uphold the rights and safety of children


Add to child abuse is femicide, which brings to the fore gender-related crime at its worse. Femicide is neither a pesticide nor a disease. I first came across the term in one of my studies on women’s empowerment and mental health. It is said to affect one in 100,000 females.

Femicide is the murder of women because they are women. It describes the killings of women by intimate partners and family members. Or the killing of women because they are women in the community. It is intentional, planned, and deliberate for an evil purpose. It is close to being a crime of passion and greed.

Suppose there was ever a scientific discovery during the Pandemic that should set the alarm among us. In that case, women are never or have never been safe, despite the lockdowns and restrictions of mass gatherings and social events. True, there was a significant decrease in out-of-home crime and violence incidents. But, at home?

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Women reported that violence against women is intensifying, and femicide continues to increase significantly. In 2015, Bicol topped all regions in rape cases. How has it gone so far? Last year, Camarines Sur had a higher number of reported rape and incest cases, according to the Provincial Police Office (PPO). The PNP, the DSWD, and CSOs/NGOs women and children advocates, including TBM, continue to call on local authorities, families, and other partners to collaborate to protect and uphold the rights and safety of children.

Protocols to ensure safety of women and children

There is a lack of awareness about what constitutes crime and violence against women and children, aggravated by a lack of swift delivery of justice to victims like Irish Mae and others. Not all know that crimes against women and children are not only physical and sexual. Equally unconscionable, they are also a psychological harm or cause mental or emotional suffering, economic abuse, and deprivation of economic rights to live decently, with dignity, and the right to go around safely.

RA 9262, or the “Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004” Declaration of Policy on paper, values the dignity of women and children and guarantees full respect for human rights. Violence against women and girls is, therefore, a human rights violation.

Like in the Pandemic, we also need a collective effort to promote urgent protocols to prioritize addressing violence against women and children in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts. We all have a role to play in ensuring safe spaces for women and our children.


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