Two bodies created to protect women and children against abuses met recently to discuss joint efforts as they welcomed the news that the Provincial Crisis Center in Virac only needs finishing touches for its completion.
The joint meeting of the Local Council for the Protection of Children (LCPC) and the Provincial Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Trafficking and Violence Against Women and Children (PIACAT-VAWC), both headed by Governor Joseph Cua as chairman, also tackled the implications of the report by Provincial Social Welfare and Development Officer Delia Bernal on the rising number of crimes against women and the steady increase in the number of Children in Conflict with the Law (CICL).
Bernal told the Tribune last week that the crisis center, built on the 2,000-square meter lot at San Isidro Village where the former Provincial Skills Training Center stood, is expected to be inaugurated in the next few months. A two-storey building will be used exclusively to house CICLs while an L-shaped one-storey building will be devoted to women and children who are victims of abuse.
All that is needed for the center to be operated, she said, are the provision of furniture and necessary equipment and the construction of a fence separating the two buildings. The construction of the CICL facility was funded by P5 million provided by the former provincial administration while the new edifice was financed solely by the P7 million the Cua administration got from its having attained the Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG) from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
Statistics from the Catanduanes Provincial Police Office showed that 305 cases of violence against women were recorded last year, or 14 percent more than the 267 incidents for 2015. Among these were 9 rape incidents, 2 attempted rapes, 10 acts of lasciviousness, one for photo and video voyeurism, three sexual harassments and one qualified trafficking in person.
The local police also recorded 187 cases of physical abuse against women, 4 for sexual abuse, 61 for psychological abuse, 14 for economic abuse, 4 cases of concubinage, 8 for unjust vexation and 1 for qualified trespass to dwelling. The capital town of Virac accounted for over half of the cases, with 158, followed by San Andres with 32 and Bato with 29.
Crimes against children, however, declined significantly by nearly 28 percent from 342 in 2015 to 247 last year, the report submitted by Catanduanes Police officer-in-charge Senior Superintendent Jeffrey Fernandez stated.
There were 40 rape incidents committed against children, along with 4 cases of incestuous rape, 26 acts of lasciviousness, 1 for child pornography and 6 involving threats. Aside from this, the police also reported 2 cases of child trafficking, 106 of physical injuries or intentional mutilation, and 39 other acts of abuse.
It likewise cited a case of abandonment of minor, one for frustrated homicide, one for violation of RA 8049, one for consented abduction, one for rape with homicide, 16 for unjust vexation, and one for reckless imprudence with slight physical injuries. Virac had the biggest number of crimes against children with a total of 136, with San Andres a far second with 27.
The number of Children in Conflict with the Law (CICL), however, jumped by 31 percent from 114 in 2015 to 150 last year, with Virac recording the highest at 109.
The same report stated that minors were involved in 44 cases of theft, 30 for violation of the law against illegal drugs, 11 rape cases, 23 in slight physical injuries, 2 robberies, 1 attempted robbery, 3 for violation of the anti-fencing law, 5 for violation of RA 7610, 9 for reckless imprudence resulting to slight physical injuries and other crimes.
The LCPC and PIACAT-VAWC meeting, attended by Gov. Cua, DILG Provincial Director Uldarico Razal Jr., PBM Vincent Villaluna as chairman of the SP Committee on Women, Children, Family and Disabled, Atty. Francisco Samonte Jr. of Provincial Prosecution Office, other government agencies and NGOs, also reviewed the Child Rights and Welfare Code of Catanduanes, the LCPC Functionality and Reconstitution, Executive Order No. 34 that created the PIACAT –VAWC, and the status of the Provincial Crisis Center. Both councils promote the rights and welfare of the children and women.
“As members of this committee, we are tasked to think of policies and programs that would support and uplift the condition of the women and children in the province,” PBM Villaluna said in his welcome remarks. He also expressed hope with their consolidated time, wisdom and resources, the committee would be participative and active in the island.
On the problem of increasing street children in the province especially in Virac, the body suggested that the Sangguniang Panlalawigan pass a resolution that would penalize those who will give them alms.
Dir. Razal pointed out that the P3 million allocated for the implementation of the programs and projects as stated in the Article VII of the Child Rights and Welfare Code of Catanduanes is insufficient, adding that as mandated by the law, it should be one percent of the total Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) of the province.
He further suggested that identification of the programs and projects to be funded should be made through the formulation of a plan. PSWDO Bernal remarked that if they are to consolidate their plans, they might be able to come up with more than the minimum one percent (1%) and at the same time enrich the programs of the councils.
Despite failing to come up with a full report, the PSWDO stated that it continues to provide medical and educational assistance to indigents in Catanduanes and is in constant touch with Day Care Center workers. The council is considering the conduct of a planning workshop involving the Municipal SWDOs and budget officers from the 11 municipalities. (Gidoemaly Romero/GO Information Unit)