Opinion

18 rapes a day

18 rapes a day

As if the problems spawned by the COVID health crisis weren’t enough, a family in Caloocan City is now in deep mourning after the four-year-old daughter was found murdered after being raped.

The parents of the lone suspect are also grieving: just 17 years old, the boy will be spending much of the prime years of his life in state custody for the capital offense. He reportedly told police probers that he was drunk when he committed the crime.

Based on statistics, the COVID-related lockdowns have not discouraged crimes involving sexual assault. Child welfare groups in fact previously expressed concern over the spike in online sexual exploitation of children or OSEC during the lockdowns, with the victims’ parents or guardians themselves as the suspects.

The Philippine National Police, for its part, reported that from the start of the enhanced community quarantine on March 17 until the end of August, 3,016 rape cases were reported nationwide. That’s a daily average of 18 rape cases. If it’s any consolation, the PNP noted that the figure is 26.09 percent lower than the rape cases reported in the six months before the COVID lockdowns. From October last year until March 16, the PNP recorded 4,081 rape cases, or a daily average of 24 victims.

The PNP did not provide details about the cases, but the rape of children and teenagers is not uncommon in this country. Girls have been sexually abused by their male relatives, despite the enactment in March 2004 of Republic Act 9262 against domestic violence. At the height of the COVID lockdowns, two policemen in the town of San Juan in Ilocos Sur allegedly raped a teenage girl they had apprehended for curfew violation, molested her cousin, and then fatally shot the molestation victim after she reported the assault.

Enforcement of the laws has always been the problem. Victims of domestic violence have complained about the refusal of barangay officials to assist them, even if RA 9262 mandates village personnel to do so.

In the case of the two teenage cousins in Ilocos Sur, their initial requests for help from the local police were reportedly rejected, ironically by a policewoman who has been sacked and now faces charges. The two principal suspects are also under PNP custody and have been indicted. Apart from intensifying efforts to protect women and girls, the punishment of rapists will serve as a deterrent to sexual assault.