Trigger warning: Rape, violence
By MELCHRIS CAYETANO
TW: rape, violence
MANILA – A 15-year-old-girl in Quezon province said in a press briefing on Jan. 21 that she was abducted, interrogated, tortured, and raped by soldiers belonging to the 59th Infantry Battallion of the Philippine Army back in 2020.
Belle, not her real name, said she was abducted on July 27, 2020 and was locked up in a room inside a soldier’s camp. She said she was subjected to interrogation, physical abuse, red tagging, and threats as soldiers were asking her of supposed rebel activities in her village. A few days into her detention, she said she was raped multiple times by one of the two suspects she recognized – a certain Leoven Julita.
Belle said she was also locked up in the office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Lopez town and at a house of a female police officer before she was released. She added she was threatened to remain silent, else she would be killed.
“I was begging for the DSWD (to release me) but they forced me to sign a statement that says I voluntarily went there and did not want to go home. It was against my will.” Belle said in a statement.
A year since the abduction, Belle and her family filed multiple cases against Julita and other military officials of rape, kidnapping, and serious illegal detention with rape, violence against women and children. Kidnapping and serious illegal detention cases were also filed against Arnil Abrinillo (whom Belle recognized as Julita’s colleague), Desiree Salamat of DSWD Lopez, Leonito, and Vilma Julita, parents of Julita.
“Everyone involved in this crime should be penalized. Belle’s case is clear proof that a lot of human rights violations in Quezon are military-perpetrated and the cases continue to rise and worsen due to NTF-ELCAC’s whole of nation approach,” said Shirley Songalia, Gabriela Southern Tagalog Spokesperson in a statement, referring to the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict.
Meanwhile, Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas said Belle’s case is proof of how infuriating it is for a vice-presidential aspirant like Sara Duterte to propose mandatory military service for the youth in the guise of promoting nationalism.
“Under President Duterte’s regime, military officials were given a free pass to rape and abuse women. Following his daughter’s recent pro-military stance, let’s expect that this kind of rotten system that preys on poor and vulnerable women will continue if she wins this election,” Brosas said.
Read: Military encampment of communities results in violence against women – group says
Citing data from the Department of National Defense from 2019 to 2021, Gabriela Women’s Party said a total of 439 of 559 cases of violence against women perpetrated by members of the Philippine Army, Philippine Air Force, Philippine Navy were marked as “resolved.” However, Gabriela noted that none of the perpetrators have been penalized criminally or administratively.
Songalia said, “we honor Belle’s bravery to speak up. We encourage other victims of military elements and state forces’ abuses to come forward and be the voice of obtaining justice.” (JJE)