By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Progressive women’s group Gabriela expressed outrage over the news that a 15-year-old girl was raped by three members of the Presidential Security Guard (PSG) inside the Malacañang Palace. Gabriela secretary-general Lana Linaban urged President Benigno S. Aquino III to call for an investigation.
“No less than the President should issue an order to investigate the reported rape of a teenage girl by three members of the Presidential Security Group. That the alleged rape happened in his own backyard is all the more deplorable,” Linaban said.
Linaban also called for the immediate suspension of Staff Sergeant Walter Candelaria, the alleged rapist, as well as his two alleged accomplices. “The crime was committed by men who used their position of power against a woman and a minor at that. As an organization opposed to violence against women, Gabriela will not let such an appalling incident pass without holding anyone accountable. Heads must roll in this case,” Linaban said.
News reports said that on June 21, Tuesday, Rose (not her real name) was brought into the village hall in barangay 637, San Miguel, Manila by chairman Angelo Murillo for allegedly violating the city-imposed curfew for minors. But then, Murillo allegedly pimped Rose to members of the PSG. Rose said that Candelaria and two other men sexually abused her inside the PSG barracks.
Murillo has denied the accusation, but Linaban said Murillo must also be subjected to investigation. “For all we know, this might not be the first time that something like this has happened in the PSG barracks,” Linaban said.
Child rights and welfare group Akap Bata Party-list condemned the rape of Rose. The group said that heads must roll so that justice will not be hindered. In a statement, the group dared PSG commander Col. Ramon Mateo Dizon, the leaders of the Manila Police District and President Aquino to conduct an impartial investigation on the case.
“What alarms and bothers us is the fact that crimes against Filipino children are taking place even inside the backyard of our national government center. We urge Aquino to have a total cleansing on the security group closest to him,’ said Arlene Brosas, national secretary-general of Akap Bata Party-List.
Brosas said that the statement of PSG chief Col. Ramon Dizon where he said that Rose’s rape is more of a PSG concern and Aquino must not be bothered is a clear sign of insensitivity and government’s lack of concern for Filipino children.
“How could a government official like Dizon belittle this kind of attack against children? Serious crimes like this should not be passed off as a “simple matter.” It says a lot about the kind of governance we have in this country,” she said.
The Akap Bata Party-List urged President Aquino to break his silence on the issue and for once, show some concern to Filipino children whom the group said have long been neglected. The group stressed that it is such a bad precedent that those who are sworn to protect the country is now being slapped with a case of child sexual abuse and exploitation.
“We will keep our eyes on this case and we will not stop to remind the Aquino administration to speed up its investigation to serve justice not just for the victim, but to all children who stand to be victimized by these people,” Brosas said.
The Gabriela Women’s Party also expressed support to Rose, by offering her counseling and aid in her efforts to seek justice. “We will closely monitor how the PSG, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police and the Department of Interior and Local Government will ensure accountability of the perpetrators of this heinous acts,” said GWP Rep. Luz Ilagan.
“Yet again, the corrupt and festering macho culture within the police and military is revealed. The heinous act of rape is aggravated when people in authority, especially public officials and men in uniform, are identified as perpetrators. A thorough investigation should follow and rapists in uniform should be brought to justice,” Ilagan said.