DAVAO CITY, Philippines – On November 7, the Davao City Council passed on third and final reading on Tuesday, November 7 an ordinance establishing violence against women (VAW) desk and protocol in handling VAW cases at the barangay level.
Establishing a VAW desk in barangay is not new since the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Magna Carta of Women under Republic Act 9710 already provides for its establishment in every barangay.
To comply with the Magna Carta of Women, the Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Education, Department of Health, and Philippine Commission on Women, issued Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2010-2 to require all local government units to put up VAW desks in barangays.
But Councilor Avegayle Ortiz-Omalza, chairperson of the Committee on Women and Children said the ordinance “is an intervention that will raise the consciousness of the public in recognizing the dignity of women.”
Under the ordinance, the barangay chairman will designate an area for the VAW desk and a person who is trained in gender-sensitive handling of cases.
The ordinance also includes the protocol that should be observed by the VAW desk person. It provides a step by step guide making it easy for the barangay official to know what to do in handling VAW cases.
VAW refers to any act that results in physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women.
Imelda Vismanos, technical-related staff of the Integrated Gender and Development Division added that the ordinance will strengthen the Magna Carta of Women in ensuring support for the victims and bringing perpetrators of violence to justice.
Vismanos said there are still around 10 to 20 barangays out of the 182 barangays in Davao City where VAW desks are non-operational.
Usually, she said, barangays located in rural areas have not set up a desk because they lack the necessary space and equipment. But she said, every year, the IGDD regularly conducts training among VAWC officers from all over the city to assist on the cases.
Just this week, Vismanos said they conducted a training in Buhangin district on Gender and Development Code drafting, setting up a database and taught them on the protocol of VAWC desk.
Lack of empowerment
Despite the recent passage of the ordinance establishing desks to assist women who are victims of violence, women’s rights advocates see economic difficulty as a challenge for women to survive abusive relationships.
Vismanos said having a local ordinance will not automatically push women to pursue the cases against their partners. In fact, in most of the cases they assisted, she said, women do not pursue to file charges against their partners due to fear of losing economic support.
“Usahay maglisud sila kay walay support sa bata, wala silay trabaho (Sometimes they do not file cases because they do not have support for their children and they do not have work),” she said.
The same reason was observed by Barangay Chairman Ramon Bargamento from Barangay Mintal here.
“Pag moingon na og consequences ang babae mahadlok basin mawad-an og panginabuhi suporta sa anak so ginapasabot pud namo na sa lalaki, usahay magkasinabtanay (When we tell the women about the consequences of pursuing the charges they fear that they will lose support for the children so we also try to explain to the men their role and sometimes they will reach an agreement to patch things up),” he said.
Bargamento explained that in cases of VAW they assist the women in getting barangay protection order (BPO). The order is effective for 15 days.
“After 15 days, mo-file sa court (they will file in court),” he said.
But once, the women found out that the men cannot go near them and should leave the house for their protection, Bargamento said most victims would opt to talk it out first.
He said if the woman is living in a house owned by her in-laws or by the man, they find it difficult to be left by their partners.
“Especially sa kaso nga dili sila suod sa ugangan (Especially in cases where they are not close with their in-laws),” he said.
The IGDD has assisted 10,544 cases of violence against women and children since 2004. In 2016, the office has served 1,732 cases. As of June 30 this year they tallied 785 cases.
Skills, shelter, allowance
Lyda Canson, chairperson emeritus of Gabriela Davao in an interview on Wednesday, said they have been calling on the government to assist women, not only in providing them with skills and training, but also by providing them assistance and shelter while their cases are ongoing.
“The cases do not progress after the BPO or even after the temporary protection order, because the women do not want to pursue the charges,” Canson said.
The temporary protection order or TPO is issued by the court and is effective for 30 days.
“We always say we need to provide women with economic empowerment, but it will take months,” Canson said.
The woman needs to learn the skills and sometimes they are offered trainings that do not interest them, she said.
“In other countries, women are given subsistence and shelter for six months, and it is funded by the government. We hope we could have that kind of assistance,” Canson added.
Bargamento agreed that if women are ensured with livelihood during the time that their cases are ongoing, pursuing charges against suspects will likely increase.
“Mas mayo kay dili na sila magduha-duha (That is better because they will not think twice),” he said.
Canson said that women have better chance in surviving abuses if they get the government’s full support. (davaotoday.com)