The Army captain enticed the young, poor teenage girls with gifts and trips, until he had his way and the girls’ future were forever shattered.
By LYN V. RAMO
BAGUIO CITY — A girl in a remote village high school in Mankayan, will not be able to attend her graduation rites.
“Isabel,” not her real name, 16, could have been in the graduating class of a Mankayan village high school because she had high grades in all subjects. She failed to take the final examinations in the last grading period because she lost her composure after she disappeared for four days in February.
Since then she has not been in a normal state of mind. She was pronounced as severely depressed by a doctor. The depression resulted in temporary amnesia, said the Innabuyog-Gabriela, a women’s organization in the Cordillera who is documenting cases of violations of women’s rights.
Isabel’s medico-legal certificate disclosed complete hymenal laceration, periannal laceration, which suggest that not just one person had raped her. The hospital that examined her also found that she has fungal infection.
Like Isabel, “Katrina,” her friend, might also have fallen victim to statutory rape, before the Christmas break last year, when she went on a sleep-over but returned home three days later.
Born of poor peasants in the mining town of Mankayan, in Benguet, Isabel, the second of five siblings, is among a group of village teenagers considered as vulnerable to becoming victims of sexual abuse.
“They are young, innocent, and they come from poor families who do not see money flowing to the family coffers,” said Mila Lingbawan, Innabuyog secretary-general, in a press conference on March 28.
What is appalling to Innabuyog is that their common “boyfriend” is a military officer, Captain Danilo Lalin of the Highlander 86 of the 50th Infantry Battalion, now patrolling the environs of Mankayan, Benguet.
It turned out that the military captain had enticed both girls to go out with him by giving the girls gifts such as money, cellphones and trips to Ifugao and elsewhere, as evidenced by photographs of the girls in Ifugao and tickets to tourist destinations.
Some likely evidences of sexual relationship with the captain include the contraceptive pills discovered among the personal belongings of the girls just after they revealed what happened.
From being “textmates,” they finally “eye-balled” (or personally meet) in December when the guy revealed his real identity and eventually invited ‘Katrina’ to a military Christmas party in Tinoc, Ifugao.
Cases of soldiers raping, deceiving girls
“This is not the first case of a military man raping innocent young community girls in the Cordillera,” said Lingbawan.
Jude Baggo of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) said his group has documented cases of rape involving the military. He cited the case of a 14-year old girl in Abra who was allegedly gang-raped by two to three soldiers in 1999. He said, in Mankayan, Isabel’s case is not the first.
“It is public knowledge that government soldiers even carry out illicit affairs with married women in the Cordillera or they make mistresses out of young Cordillera girls. It is like a conscious effort to degrade Igorot women and to erode the Cordillera culture,” Baggo surmised.
He said, it is breaking up the indigenous peoples’ communities because the victims and their families tend to break down, if not get ostracized because of this ‘relationship’ with soldiers.
Baggo also mentioned cases where the victims seemed drugged so that when they break their silence they could not tell the whole story lucidly; they suffered memory lapses.
From soldier’s text courtship to alleged statutory rape
The two girls’ story started in October 2011 when Katrina received a text message from a certain Vince Valdez, who asked her if she could be his text-mate. They eye-balled” two months later in December, when he revealed to her his real identity and eventually invited her to a military Christmas party in Tinoc, Ifugao.
She was promised marriage after his supposed marital annulment was approved. As her boyfriend he even reportedly claimed that Isabel, Katrina’s friend, was trying to ruin their relationship.
“Vince” started sending messages to Isabel, too, after Katrina borrowed her phone once to reply to him. After that, he stopped texting Katrina and instead, turned to Isabel until she disappeared too, allegedly with him, in February.
Lalin was even quoted as telling Katrina that he would answer in court whatever case Isabel would file against him.
Soldiers’ sexual proclivities
According to Baggo, these incidents are common occurrences in all Cordillera provinces where there is military presence. In Mankayan, the civilian-military operations started with a motorcade of the Oplan Bayanihan Patrol. The 86th IBPA patrolled the area with motorcycles roaming around, in the process preying also on Benguet lasses.
“Military presence not only disturbs the peace. It is ruining the youth’s future,” Baggo said. He added that this has to end as he cited the community’s clamor to arrest the perpetrator, in the case of Katrina and Isabel, Capt. Lalin. He also called on other possible victims of military atrocities to come out and break their silence.
CHRA also pressed for the “demilitarization” of Cordillera communities.
Similarly, Innabuyog-Gabriela called on the immediate pullout of troops in the Cordillera countryside, which, it said, has long been plundered of its natural resources.
“Oplan Bayanihan and the presence of the military cater to securing the continuous plunder of our resources by big multi-national companies. At the same time militarization will continue to violate human rights and we are threatened that there would be more ‘Isabels’ to be victimized,” Innabuyog-Gabriela said in a statement.
In the meantime, while her classmates are getting ready for the graduation march, Isabel is confined in an undisclosed psychiatric clinic to address her condition. Her teachers reportedly said that she could take a special examination to complete the secondary school requirements.