Harassment at SM Baguio
was inspected, I saw the guard frisking my sons from the waist down to
their private parts, one after the other. I freaked out when I saw what
the guard did, as I also saw him smiling while my two sons were looking at
me helplessly. I reprimanded him and said that he had just sexually
harassed my children. Instead of apologizing, he argued that he was only
joking and that he wasn't gay and that my children were boys anyway.
Communications Head, Office of the Secretary
Department of Education
To fellow parents, colleagues
in education and child development, and friends in media,
As you may well know, we at
the Department of Education (DepEd) have been actively advocating against
child abuse. No less than DepEd OIC Secretary Fe Hidalgo herself has
warned teachers and school officials about this issue. As Communications
head at the Office of the Secretary, and as a father of three young
children, this advocacy has been my personal conviction.
I'd like to share an incident
which happened last Saturday, April 29, in Baguio City where my two sons,
aged six and eight, were sexually harassed at SM Baguio.
Frisking my kids' private
parts not funny!
I went to SM Baguio with my
two sons and 4 year-old daughter on Saturday afternoon. At the entrance,
there was this routine baggage inspection one line for males and another
for females. Upon our entrance, the guard inspected my bag and frisked me.
As I was holding my little girl, my two sons were following right behind
After I was inspected, I saw
the guard frisking my sons from the waist down to their private parts, one
after the other. I freaked out when I saw what the guard did, as I also
saw him smiling while my two sons were looking at me helplessly. I
reprimanded him and said that he had just sexually harassed my children.
Instead of apologizing, he argued that he was only joking and that he
wasn't gay and that my children were boys anyway.
This really provoked me and I
asked for the supervisor from the other guards, who, by the way, seemed
unaffected by what happened. The guard, as if threatening me, confronted
me and said, "Gusto mo ba 'ko matanggal sa trabaho?" I said yes, because
he had just harassed my children and he shouldn't be in that job if he
himself harmed or abused the people he's supposed to protect.
A representative from SM's
Customer Service Relations (CSR) came and I told him what happened. He
confronted the guard who then admitted what he did and even demonstrated
it on my sons again! This triggered me to shout at him to stop touching
The excuse kids can bear
I was invited by the CSR
representative to their office so I could file a complaint to the CSR
Supervisor, which I did. As I wrote down my complaint, I asked the CSR
Supervisor why the children had to be frisked to begin with. They
explained that this was a standard operating procedure because of the
possibility that bombs or weapons could be slid through into their
clothes. This was the same excuse given to me by the Area Coordinator of
Star Force, the security agency the guard worked for.
Upon learning that the guard
was not relieved from his post (the supervisor at the CSR office was
initially arguing that they had no one to replace his post at the moment),
I asked that he be relieved and told them that I wanted him arrested. So
he was called down to the CSR office in a separate room. The CSR
Supervisor called for a Police Officer to whom I narrated my complaint. He
then called for a Police Mobile Patrol Unit to bring us and the guard to
Baguio City's Station 7, near the City Hall.
SM Baguio's customer
relations limited warranty
When we were being picked up,
another Police Officer who came with the Mobile Patrol Unit asked what
happened. The CSR representative to whom the guard confessed suddenly
tweaked the story by saying that when the guard frisked the kids, his
hands just came near their private parts. In an effort to tell him that I
saw him lie right there, I approached him, thanked him for his help and
expressed my hope that he and SM Baguio would be cooperative in the case.
He said they would.
But no representative from SM
Baguio came to the Police Station with us. In fact no representative from
SM Baguio showed any concern after they turned us over to the Police.
I was very bothered with this
as I sensed that I was going to have a hard time fighting for my children
with these people. So I called two of my colleagues from the Office of the
Secretary who were also in Baguio to go meet me at the Police Station.
The trauma of my children and
the untroubled offender
At the Police Station 7, we
were brought to an office that facilitated cases involving women and
children. I filed my complaint there and we were all asked for our
statements me, my two sons and the guard.
This in itself was a very
difficult moment for my children to have them undergo some questioning
and tell a stranger how they were sexually violated. So I had to reassure
them that it was ok and that we had to tell the authorities that the guard
did something wrong to them so he would be punished. My eldest son said,
"Daddy buti na lang nakita mo kasi di ko alam kung pano ako
magrereklamo nung ginawa nya yun."
So my two sons and I gave our
sworn statements. Two policewomen gently interviewed them. I was thankful
to these two ladies for being like kindergarten teachers to my kids. I
also thanked them for facilitating our case swiftly.
Meanwhile, I found out that
the guard had changed his story to "he was just doing his job," without
admitting that he did frisk my children down to their private parts. The
Area Coordinator from Star Force approached me and was proposing if we can
have some sort of an out-of-court settlement. I said that all we wanted
was for the guard to admit the truth like how he demonstrated it to the
CSR Representative when he was confronted at the scene in SM Baguio. Then
we want him punished for what he did as the law prescribes. I explained to
him that it's all about a matter of principle so we will pursue the case.
At some point during our stay
at the Police Station, the guard was somehow asking that I let this pass
since he's just a security guard and that he, too, had children. I told
him that he should've known better since he too had children. I also said
that as a father, I'm sure he'd be as hurt as I am if this happened to his
own children. I asked him to simply admit the truth as he did earlier,
accept the punishment then perhaps I could be more considerate.
Maintaining his arrogance, he never admitted it, and he never apologized.
Security guard on the loose
To our dismay, the inquest
prosecutor to whom the case was endorsed, later on decided to have the
guard released and instead have him "Promise to Appear" during the
investigation or court hearings.
If that security guard went
back to work and wasn't suspended or fired, then you can be sure that
there's a security guard by the name of Roldan Gunayon on the loose at SM
Baguio who can frisk your children's private parts anytime you enter the
It was alarming enough that
Roldan Gunayon, a security guard, would have the temerity to commit that
act of perversion to my children in a public place, in broad daylight.
It's unimaginable that he has been set free. At any time, he can continue
his nefarious acts with any child at SM Baguio or anywhere he may be.
Justice delayed, justice
We were foolish to think that
the security guard, after being caught of blatantly violating my children
in public and admitting having done so at the scene; and after two
innocent children gave their sworn statements to the police, however
traumatic, would be imprisoned right away.
We thought we found justice
when the Police facilitated our case swiftly. But we lost it when the
security guard was released. What would it have taken to have him
detained? Wasn't it enough that two very young children who had no sense
of malice complain and swear on their soul that they were sexually
Why wasn't he imprisoned at
prosecutor's "Promise to Appear" decision imputed to the accused the crime
of unjust vexation in relation to RA 7610. Unjust vexation is one of the
minor offences in the Revised Penal Code, punishable by a fine of Php 5
Php 200 or imprisonment of 1-30 days.
He wasn't even charged of
violations against RA 7610 or the Child Protection Act. However minor the
violation may be interpreted, any layperson such as me would, by common
sense, easily point that out as child abuse. My children themselves knew
that they were violated and they themselves expressed that they were
wronged. Unjust vexation is not a crime against honor.
Just how minor an offence is
frisking the private parts of children when you're not even supposed to
frisk these innocent people to begin with? How minor an offence is
frisking their private parts with such malicious intent of kidding with
them? How minor an offence is sexually harassing children?
I was also informed that we
did not expressly manifest in our sworn statements that we wanted the
guard detained a technicality that could've prompted the prosecutor to
simply set the guard free. I thought that the point of bringing the guard
to the police station was to have him arrested; otherwise we would've left
him at SM Baguio after we filed the complaint at the CSR Office. It's sad
that a mere technicality was given more consideration than the rights of
my children to be served justice at that moment when they honestly
complained that they were indeed violated.
Whatever the prosecutor
appreciation for the case was, his decision certainly communicated little
concern for the abused children who the state, so we all trust, are
supposed to protect first and foremost.
Obviously, his decision
showed that justice for two sexually harassed children could be delayed
until the court got to investigate the offender despite the fact that he
was caught in the act and despite the sworn complaints of two innocent
children against him.
While we appeal that the
guard be charged of violations against RA 7610, we can only hope that the
good prosecutor would be enlightened, and could see beyond the
technicalities of the law. We'd like to believe that the genius of RA 7610
is to first and foremost protect the welfare of innocent children,
particularly in cases such as this.
Meanwhile, the harsh reality
remains that my two sons were denied justice. Instead, the offender was
allowed to go free.
SM Baguio's negligence and
We were also foolish to think
that the management of SM Baguio, with all its "we've got it all for you"
fanfare, would be responsible enough to own accountability for their
negligence since the incident happened within their premises and with
their employed security guard as the offender.
Their accountability, if you
can call it that, was limited to relieving the guard from his post and
turning us over to the Police both at my prodding. They did not even
accompany us to the Police Station, to ensure, at the very least, that the
matter was settled and the offence against my children was brought to
justice. Their sense of accountability was limited to calming an aggrieved
customer, without retribution whatsoever.
It was as if they left the
guard to answer the accusations on his own; and we were left to prove our
word against the statement of the guard when their CSR representative
himself saw and heard the guard demonstrate and admit what he did to my
Meanwhile, Star Force
Security Agency, through its Area Coordinator, could only offer an
out-of-court settlement, which, in a sense, was even adding insult to
injury. While I could appreciate the agency's effort to find a solution to
the situation, we weren't after anything but simply justice for my
children that was for the guard to be imprisoned for what he did. We
don't need appeasement, we want justice.
I hold SM Baguio accountable
for this incident. Its failure to help us see the matter through speaks so
much of the kind of service they render to the thousands of customers who
patronize them everyday.
If this is the kind of
customer service SM provides, then maybe they should change their slogan
to "We get it all from you, then you're on your own."
Fighting for justice
If the guard is convicted, he
can be imprisoned or he can post bail. Either punishment does not take
away the trauma that my children went through. They will have to live with
that experience for the rest of their lives.
Either punishment does not
heal the wounds of that devastating moment for my children. And I can
never forget the helpless look on their eyes when the guard touched their
private parts, as if they were being raped and couldn't cry for help in
In my anger I could find the
security guard and uncontrollably beat him up. But whatever pain this
incident has caused us and however it will linger, unlawful means will not
win justice for my two young sons.
My children, young as they
are -- and any young child for that matter -- do not deserve to be
subjected to such a horrible and abusive experience. And whoever does so
should be duly charged and punished within the bounds of the Child
I come from a very forgiving
family. But life has taught me that we are all responsible for the
circumstances we find ourselves in and we must be held accountable for the
consequences of our actions. I've had my share of paying up, and I
continue to do so.
Hence I will fight for
justice for my two sons until I've won so for them.
I have been warned that by
making this issue public, I may stir the ire of the companies and
personalities involved, and risk being retaliated upon. This is exactly
why many abuses have not been served justice. I cannot be threatened and
have my children grow up with an unresolved baggage in their lives.
I've written this to you all
in my search for justice for my two sons -- to share my pain as a father,
to warn you about a paedophile possibly on the loose in SM Baguio, to
complain against frisking children and to show parents of children who
have been abused or continue to be abused, that justice for their children
is worth fighting for.
I make this statement to
remind us adults about the kinds of abuses we allow our children to go
through, which we may take for granted since they do not complain and they
get easily frightened to speak up. Justice for every abused child has to
be fought for.
Toilet humor, which in many
instances borders to perversion, is not at all funny, especially when our
children are involved.
While we trust the state to
protect the welfare of our children, it seems that we will not be able
stop the abuses against them unless we bring these incidents out in the
open and actively seek to punish those who abuse them.
Help from genuine authorities
I have sought the assistance
of other authorities in Baguio City those whom I think would have
genuine concern for children's welfare. I found the Office of Councilor
Pinky Rondez most helpful and forthcoming. Being the lone woman-councilor
in the city, women's and children's issues are foremost in her agenda. She
has expressed her full support in my fight for justice for my children.
With all respect to the City
of Baguio which I'm sure most of us enjoy visiting, I hope that this
incident would help you strengthen your responsiveness to issues involving
our young, keeping in mind that your beautiful city has been considered a
haven for many people local and foreign tourists alike, especially
Posted by Bulatlat
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