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Kris-Crossing Mindanao

Davao’s Danao and his ‘Yawa, ka!’

/ 12:07 AM September 08, 2014

For most of us who are no lawyers, our claim to legalese is a feeble one. But that, precisely, is the point of Republic Act No. 9262, the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act. It takes only a concerned private citizen to report the abuse committed even without any lawyer nor with any proficiency, if at all, in legal gobbledygook. Personal knowledge of the offense committed is all that is needed.

Many readers must have seen by now the viral post in YouTube that showed Davao City police chief Vicente Danao shouting invectives (note: abusive language) at his wife and hitting her with a slipper. Danao was relieved from his post by the Philippine National Police on the basis of cases filed against him by his wife Susie for battery.

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“It is a private matter,” Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte was recorded to have said in an interview. “There are many police generals who quarrel with their wives” was among the quotable quotes from Duterte.

The Domestic Violence Law, however, was precisely designed not to exclude physical violence committed in the privacy of one’s marital abode. Violence against women can be committed “within or without the family abode.” Why is that? The law’s preamble states it for us: “The State values the dignity of women and children and guarantees full respect for human rights.”

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Violence against women and children is violence against human dignity. Just what exactly is human dignity? Human dignity is the bedrock of the natural law. It holds the unequivocal dictum that human beings have, by their very existence, an inherent value, worth and distinction. No one but no one has the right to take that away from anyone.

The Domestic Violence Law in fact is based on the correct philosophy that dignity does not disappear in the privacy of one’s home. What Duterte used to consider private, as the old culture approves of, is no longer private. In turning to the reductionism that a spat with one’s wife is common, Duterte qualifies by using the word “quarrel.” The word, however, makes it sound like it is a mere disagreement, which indeed may be “common.” This law, in fact, makes the qualification for violence very simple. Where physical violence was inflicted, battery is involved.

Thanks to YouTube, we know, for example, and again based on how the law defines it, that what Danao did to his wife was neither only a threat nor an attempt. Nor was Mrs. Danao just simply “placed in fear of imminent physical harm” (although we don’t know what other physical abuses the wife suffered from her sparring husband). As we can see, physical harm was truly caused as the law defines it. No doubt, a crime was committed. But for ordinary readers who witness violence in one’s domicile, this is not all, as we shall soon see.

Section 9 of that law lists those who may report such acts. There are the usual: the offender, parents or guardians of the offended party, ascendants, descendants or collateral relatives within the fourth civil degree of consanguinity or affinity, officers or social workers of the Department of Social Welfare and Development or social workers of local government units (LGUs), police officers, punong barangay or barangay kagawad, lawyer, counselor, therapist or healthcare provider of the petitioner.

And then, lo and behold, and this is where the law makes it very simple for ordinary citizens to report violations: the report can be made by “At least two (2) concerned responsible citizens of the city or municipality where the violence against women and their children occurred and who has personal knowledge of the offense committed.” The possibilities are endless. That can include neighbors, household staff and a host of other eyewitnesses.

There are degrees in the sanction: “those constituting serious physical injuries shall have the penalty of prision mayor; those constituting less serious physical injuries shall be punished by prision correccional; and those constituting slight physical injuries shall be punished by arresto mayor.” At the very least, Danao should be arrested right this very minute.

Somebody took the footage. Was it the couple’s child? The law states: “If the acts are committed while the woman or child is pregnant or committed in the presence of her child, the penalty to be applied shall be the maximum period of penalty prescribed in the section.”

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If not to a court, the petitioner can go to a barangay and ask for a Barangay Protection Order. “The parties may be accompanied by a non-lawyer advocate in any proceeding before the punong  barangay.” As simple as simplicity goes. One can lose a limb or an organ and the human dignity can still be intact. But when one causes another to lose one’s dignity, you can be sure victims like Mrs. Danao have the law on their side. That is a certainty made plain and simple.

The case is a litmus test for Davao City, lately accused of selectivity. It declared entertainer Ramon Bautista persona non grata for public remarks hinting of women as sex objects. An American tourist slapped a young prostitute right inside a Davao City police station for “shortchanging” him but went scot-free. Now tell us, can victims report domestic violence to the police if the chief himself is a wife beater? For all that it is known for, Davao City has a culture of selective impunity.

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