“Ang panggagahasa ay isang krimen na dapat panagutan ng kahit sinuman, kahit anu pa ang katayuan niya sa lipunan (Rape is a crime that holds anyone accountable regardless of status in society)” Remedios Ignacio-Rikken, Chairperson of the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) asserts about the case involving the alleged rape of “Pamela” (not her real name), a 19 year-old Filipina, by a Panamanian embassy official.
“Whatever the evidences of the case, this issue is now more likely academic because Erick Shcks has left the country….He could have stayed to prove that the act was consensual just like what he claims,” Rikken states. “As for ‘Pamela,’ we express admiration for her courage to speak out despite the pressures and emotional toll, and the tendency of most people to misjudge women who do not dress and act like a ‘Maria Clara,'” she quickly adds.
“Lack of consent is central in the crime of rape and the burden of proof lies on the accused,” PCW Executive Director Emmeline L. Verzosa explains, pointing to the need to further clarify the definition of the crime in the Anti-Rape Law of 1997 (Republic Act 8353). She stressed this much needed amendment to the existing law, including the removal of the privilege of the accused to be freed from criminal liability once the victim agrees to marriage or, in the case of marital rape, when the woman forgives the husband.
Referring to the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations that covers administrative and civil cases, Rikken lauds the statement of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima of her intention to review and clarify rules and guidelines for the accreditation and certification of immunity of members of diplomatic staff, particularly in criminal cases.
The action of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to issue a certificate of diplomatic immunity may be in observance of the Vienna Convention “but no one is ever prevented from questioning laws and policies” that prove to be discriminatory against women, Rikken clarifies. We have the Magna Carta of Women of 2009 (Republic Act 9710) that provides a clear mandate for the creation, amendment and repeal of laws for the purpose of eliminating all forms of discrimination against women.
A woman can say “yes” to a kiss and “no” to sex; she can refuse at any point in a dating relationship and the man should respect her resistance. How a woman behaves and dresses is not an excuse for society to blame the victim and free the offender. Unless we remove our biases and myths, rape and other forms of sexual abuse will persist.