Our group, the Tulong sa Abandonado Laban sa Abuso (TALA), would like to point out the persistent problem of domestic violence in the country, especially during this time of the pandemic. The problem has been placed at the bottom of priorities because of the more urgent difficulties brought about by the pandemic. We also would like to reiterate that the women hiding the bruises of domestic abuse are not to be and should not be forgotten.
When does away mag-asawa (spousal argument) become a criminal offense?
Domestic violence in the Philippines is an issue that has become prevalent during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW). The PCW said in its May 2020 survey that 1 in 4 Filipino women aged 15 to 49, who had experienced physical, emotional and sexual abuse from their partner or husband, might have increase in number with the pandemic as well.
In Quezon City, Mayor Josefina “Joy” Belmonte said 602 women, or an average of eight per day, experienced maltreatment in their household from March 17 to May 23 — the height of the quarantine lockdowns last year. Mayor Belmonte said the city’s women and children’s help desk now receives at least 12 complaints of domestic abuse per week. Before the pandemic began, the number was at five.
Over 3,600 cases of domestic violence and abuse, specifically against women and children, were reported to authorities since the Philippine government implemented an enhanced community quarantine over Luzon in March 2020. This figure has been confirmed by President Rodrigo Duterte’s 11th weekly report to Congress, when he cited that 1,945 cases of violence and abuse against women and 1,745 cases against children have been recorded by the Philippine National Police (PNP). Cases could be more than what were reported but the pandemic has limited data-gathering activities as well.
The figures presented had been consistent with a World Health Organization report that says violence against women has increased during the pandemic because couples and families are spending more time together indoors. High levels of anxiety, fear of acquiring the virus and loss of potential income have exacerbated the situation among families, especially on women, who had been balancing work life and home care, according to the PCW.
The away mag-asawa or spousal argument conundrum had weighed down efforts to curb domestic abuse in recent years in the country. It was only in 2004 that Republic Act 9262 or the “Anti-Violence against Women and Their Children Act” was enacted. The law protects women and children caught in the mire of domestic abuse.
With the closure of help desks as a consequence of the pandemic, however, victims of domestic violence are left with little or no choice but to hide and keep their suffering all in, which could also lead to dire consequences in the long term. Some local government units (LGUs) have installed online help desks, but they are yet to prove their effectiveness.
Our group would like to emphasize the need for continuing campaigns to encourage these women prone to domestic abuse to come out in the open and let them be aware that they are not alone in their struggle. The online help desks of the LGUs and the PNP are always available to them.
But opening the lines of communication and setting aside all prejudice among family members should be the starting point. Support groups among church organizations could also be a way to help these abused women.
If the away mag-asawa has turned a woman into a human punching bag, then this is a criminal offense to pay for.
UST-SHS Grade 12 Section 6
Agalabia, Beata Maxine
Bancolita, James Harry
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Ferrer, Jose Angelo
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