ZAMBOANGA CITY — The case of Gemma, a Grade 10 student in a public school here, could exemplify what a woman’s rights advocate called growing impunity abetted by public officials involved in abuses themselves and “casual remarks” made by leaders that belittle women.
Gemma (not her real name) went home crying after securing clearance at the barangay hall of Maasin.
“I was sexually molested by the barangay captain,” she told her father.
The family filed a complaint at the police against Rodolfo Genturalez, chair of Barangay Maasin.
Gemma’s case ended with a report of acts of lasciviousness being filed by police and Genturalez posting bail.
The family is getting death threats now which Gemma’s father believed was linked to the complaint they filed against Genturalez.
Shellamae Chang, spokesperson of the Zamboanga City police, confirmed that police had received the sexual molestation complaint filed by Gemma’s family against Genturalez, 56, on March 1.
The assault took place inside the Maasin barangay hall, Chang said, citing the complaint.
Gemma’s is just one on a growing list of cases of sexual violence against girls and women involving officials as perpetrators.
Last February, another girl was raped by her own grandfather, a barangay councilor, and her own father.
Police identified the suspect as Alexis Ortega who is now at large.
Dr. Ederlinda Fernandez, retired vice president of Western Mindanao State University and a women’s rights advocate, expressed anger over the continuing abuse of women not only in the city.
“It is sad that after decades of work on violence against women advocacy, incidents like these happen, even increasingly and with greater impunity, it seems,” Fernandez said.
“Sadder that this form of sexual violence seems to be abetted by the casual remarks, even flippant attitude, of those who the citizens should expect to be on higher moral ground,” Fernandez said referring to the involvement of officials in abuse cases. —JULIE ALIPALA
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