A Camarines Sur lawmaker on Tuesday, March 25, urged Valenzuela City government officials to help women become economically independent as a means to curb violence against women.
During a Women’s Month program attended by women’s organizations and Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Valenzuela students, Camarines Sur Third District Representative Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo said many abused women choose to remain with their abusive partners than pursue lawsuits and live on their own for fear of losing their livelihood.
This is a situation Robredo is all too familiar with, having worked for Sentrong Alternatibong Lingap Panlegal (SALIGAN), a non-government organization that defends marginalized sectors in court, including abused women; and having led the Naga City Council for Women (NCCW), the office that recommends policies on women’s issues to the city government, as president.
“Magfafile kami ng kaso, di namin iyon tinutulugan. Pag minsan umiiyak sila, umiiyak din ako. Kasi nararamdaman ko rin ang sakit na pinagdadaanan nila (I would help these women file cases against their abusers, not letting up until our work is done. When they cried, I would cry, too, because I was also feeling their pain),” said Robredo, the widow of former Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) secretary and Ramon Magsaysay awardee Jesse Robredo, who died in an airplane crash in 2012.
But things would often take a turn for the worse when the court started hearing the cases.
“Maraming beses po na pupunta ako sa korte, wala namang kliyenteng magpapakita sa akin at madalas nadidismiss na 'yong kaso. Kaya po nadidismiss kasi nagkasundo na pala ulit ang mag-asawa (Lots of times I would go to the court, only to be stood down by the client. Often the judge would dismiss the case. Why the client’s absence, the case dismissed? It’s because the woman had reconciled with her husband),” Robredo said.
Robredo said those women returned to their partners despite the torment they suffered as they are not “economically empowered,” or have no means to provide for their own.
“Kung wala silang sariling trabaho, talagang babalik sila sa kanilang mga asawa kasi economically dependent sila sa kanilang mga asawa (If they don’t have their own jobs, they would surely return to their husbands because they are economically dependent on them),” Robredo added.
This is why besides providing abused women with legal aid, the NCCW also teaches them with livelihood skills, holding classes on dressmaking and cosmetology. In 2009, the office’s efforts were recognized by the Philippine Commission on Women, which awarded Naga City as the first Outstanding Violence Against Women (VAW) -Responsive Local Government Unit.
The link between violence and poverty can also be seen among abused women in Valenzuela City.
City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) social worker Linda Santiago said she has had many clients who chose to withdraw lawsuits against their abusive partners.
“Maraming nakukulong, pero hindi pinatatagal ng asawa; pinapiyansahan din (Many gets jailed for committing acts of violence against women, but they don’t last long in jail. It’s their spouses themselves who bail them out)” Santiago said.
City Mayor REX Gatchalian is urging women to report to authorities instances of abuse by their partners.
“Not for one moment should a woman think that she deserves the hurt, that her partner was just provoked to hitting her because she was nagging her too much, or because she was being too jealous. In a civilized society, violence is never justified,” the local chief executive said.
He also assured women of well-rounded welfare service from the city government.
Santiago said the CSWDO gives abused women cash and basic business management training, after which they get loans for capital money to start their own small businesses.
These are besides medical bill coverage, psychological counseling, and legal assistance.
CSWDO data show that in 2013, the office helped 103 women who were victims of different kinds of abuse. Physical abuse was the most frequent kind, affecting 47 women.
Under Republic Act 9262, “Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004", an act of violence against women (VAW) incurs a minimum punishment of arresto mayor, or imprisonment of one month and one day to six months. Parricide, murder and homicide are punishable under the provisions of the Revised Penal Code.