Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged her colleagues to help push for the swift passage of her bill which seeks to protect female detainees from sexual harassment and other forms of abuse in the course of their incarceration.
De Lima, the first prominent political prisoner under the Duterte regime, urged her fellow Senators to support her Senate Bill (SB) No. 378 after the reported sexual harassment against former Vice Mayor Nova Parojinog inside the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
“Kung nagagawa ang ganitong pang-aabuso sa isang high-profile detainee sa loob mismo ng Camp Crame, paano pa kaya sa mga ordinaryong correctional facilities?” asked De Lima in her Dispatch from Crame No. 937.
“Violence against Women (VAW) in detention is an institutional problem which persists with brazen impunity. Walang ibang matakbuhan ang mga kababaihang detainees kaya nananahimik na lang ang marami sa kanila. Kaya’t tuloy-tuloy ang pang-aabuso hanggang sa nagiging bahagi na ito ng kultura sa mga kulungan sa ating bansa,” she added.
Based on media reports, Police Lt. Col. Jigger Noceda, chief of the PNP Custodial Service Unit, has been removed from his post and charged with a criminal case after allegedly harassing Parojinog, who said that Noceda sexually assaulted her twice, on June 9 and on September 7.
The PNP Women and Children Protection Center (WCPC) reportedly charged Noceda for attempted rape, acts of lasciviousness, unjust vexation, and a violation of Republic Act No. 11313 or the Safe Spaces Act of 2019 before the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office last October 7.
While the decisive action taken by the PNP against Noceda is laudable, De Lima underscored the need for concrete and effective mechanisms to address grievances of Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs), and institutionalize investigative procedure to process the cases of abuse being reported by female detainees in jails and correctional facilities.
“As early as 2017, I have been pushing for the passage of Women in State Custody Act, which I re-filed this 18th Congress as Senate Bill (SB) No. 378, to protect female PDLs from sexual and other abuses,” she said.
“It’s time that my colleagues in the Senate support this measure and investigate these VAW cases which may be piling up already and becoming a human rights crisis. Hindi dapat natin pinapalampas ang anumang pang-aabuso na ginagawa ng mga nasa kapangyarihan lalo na sa mga bulnerableng sektor, gaya ng kababaihan,” she added.
In filing Senate Bill No. 378, De Lima said women constitute a vulnerable group in detention or prison facilities for a number of factors, including, among others, high victimization from sexual or physical abuse while in custody, and sexual or physical abuse prior to and during imprisonment.
If passed into law, De Lima said SB No. 378 could protect all women in state custody, those who are under detention for investigation and/or trial, or those who have already been sentenced with imprisonment by final judgment, irrespective of the place of their detention or imprisonment.
“This measure enumerates their rights and prescribes the minimum standard rules for their treatment while in custody,” she said.
“Further, it establishes mechanisms for proper redress of complaints of women inmates and makes the heads of the detention/prison institution directly accountable should he/she fail to act on the complaints,” she added. (30)