Tuesday, April 24, 2018
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At Large

Women in the line of fire

“Why should men be deciding what women in the police force should wear and what we are capable of doing?” wonders aloud Director Lina Sarmiento of the Directorate for Police and Community Relations.

She’s talking about the regulations requiring women in the Philippine National Police (PNP) to wear narrow pencil-cut skirts for their uniforms, even if these have at times proven to be hindrances to effective police work. Many years ago, some policewomen told me how they had to hike up their skirts to chase after malefactors, since the narrow skirts prevented them from running faster. I was stunned to discover, during the recent Summit on Women in Policing, that despite the loud complaints of police women around the country, the regulation on skirts was still in effect.

“Some of our male superiors still have outdated ideas about women in the force,” explains Sarmiento, who holds the rank of a two-star general. Although, she added, the current PNP leadership is looking for ways to give women more voice in determining policies that affect them.


Perhaps one way of giving women in the force greater say in policies governing them is to step up recruitment efforts. Currently, said a police official, there is only one police woman for every 750 men in the 140,000-strong police force, surely a lopsided ratio. But the women who do make it through the initial stages after recruitment, say Sarmiento and other senior police women, have proven themselves to be both mentally adept and physically able to meet the demands of police work.

In fact, said Bea Bustamante-Miller, who works with the US Department of Justice in training local police on various aspects of law enforcement, policewomen even have a distinct edge over men. “Given the high cost of litigation (after suspects are arrested),” said Bustamante-Miller, American police women “who rely on their communication skills to bring in suspects” are highly valued by their superiors.

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Considered a “role model” for women in the PNP is Sr. Insp. Charity Galvez, chief of police of Trento, Agusan del Sur, who was recently recognized as an outstanding police woman during the PNP anniversary last August.

Galvez, a former school teacher, was recognized for her “conspicuous courage and gallantry in action” when she led her men in fighting off some 250 communist New People’s Army insurgents last July. Making things doubly tense for Galvez at the time was that her baby and nanny were inside the police station when it was raided. But after securing the two, the 39-year-old Galvez, according to a previous report, organized her 30-strong force and beat back and repelled the NPA guerrillas in an hour-long battle.

When quiet finally descended on the town, “two civilians lay dead and three others, including two lawmen, were wounded.”

Galvez became chief of Trento’s police force just about a year after she joined the force in 2008. She holds a criminology degree and has one child—the baby at the police station—with her husband, an employee of a water utility company.

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Galvez blended inconspicuously with about 600 other police women at the Summit last week which was held at Fort Ilocandia. I wouldn’t be surprised if she even joined other police women in her district in performing during their competitive presentation.

At the moment, much of the work of women in the PNP involves “wo-manning” the women and children’s desks to which cases of violence against women, most of it not only domestic violence cases but also sexual assault and rape, are assigned. These are important concerns, and the reason they were created in the first place were the complaints of insensitive and even cruel handling of the women complainants by male police.

But it seems that, as Bustamente-Miller pointed out, the women in the police force are being underutilized if the leadership believes that dealing with wife beaters and sexual assaulters is all women in law enforcement can do. Sarmiento is a case in point. She entered the police force as a chemist in the crime lab, but has proven herself as the equal of any man in the field—when she used to take charge of high-profile security cases—and even now in strengthening relations between police and the community at large.

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Everyone has a food story to tell. Whether it be about early childhood feeding habits, food fetishes, a favorite dish, recipe or restaurant, a beloved cook or parent who loved to cook, a family tradition, a town’s heritage dishes—each of us has a story to share about food and about eating.

Now all one has to do is to put this “food story” on the record—whether by way of an essay, an illustration, photos or painting, or an audio-visual presentation—to win a grand prize of P20,000 in “Mga Kuwentong Pagkain (Food Stories),” a contest sponsored by the makers of the famous “Mama Sita” brand of food products.

Clara Lapus, president of Marigold Manufacturing Corp., says the contest is in line with her mother’s, Mama Sita’s, “commitment to document and propagate the culinary heritage of the Philippines.” The contest, she added, is meant to encourage Filipinos of all ages “to share their authentic, one-of-a-kind and little known stories on Filipino cuisine and cooking.”

Deadline for entries is on Oct. 12, and anyone, except for employees of the sponsoring firm and their families, is eligible, although those below 18 years old must submit a consent form from one’s parents. Download and fill up an entry form in www.msita.com/whatsnew html, and send your entry with an entry form attached to “Mga Kuwentong Pagkain,” Marigold Manufacturing Corp., 538 North South Compound, Jenny’s Ave., Maybunga, Pasig, or e-mail to mgakuwentongpagkain@gmail.com.

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