Look Who’s Talking: The Big-time Thief is in Malacañang
In an En Banc meeting of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) in Malacañang on Oct. 17, 2006, Pres. Gloria Arroyo said that prostituted women are like “petty thieves and criminals.” Therefore, to her, the women victims of prostitution should remain criminalized.
The above statement was made by Ms. Arroyo in response to the women’s sectoral council representative’s request that the anti-prostitution bill be certified as a priority bill. As we have been lobbying for 8 years now for the passage of said legislation, we might have anticipated a ‘no’ for an answer, but not a statement that further stigmatizes the victims in prostitution. Her statement becomes even more ironic now that the Palace is faced with grave charges of corruption – theft of public resources for private gain –, and worse, with treason for selling out Philippine sovereignty in exchange for fat Chinese loans.
We lament the fact that Philippine government officials – including the highest one – have found an ally in the Supreme Court in covering up their wrongdoings even as the victims of prostitution continue to get arrested nightly. To date, 1,031 recorded arrests for 2006 and 2007 have been gathered by the survivors’ group Bagong Kamalayan Collective, Inc. (BKCI), with the help of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women – Asia Pacific (CATW-AP).
When arrested, the women are given the options “to bed or to jail” by the police. Liza Gonzales, an incest survivor who was victimized in street prostitution for 7 years, has been arrested at least 40 times, jailed for a sum of at least 2 years, sexually abused by the police for at least 15 times. The women are forced to accede to the police officers’ extraction of money or sexual advances for fear of leaving behind their children for months. “Arbor” is Filipino slang for sexual favor required by police officers of victims of prostitution in exchange for jail terms.
In the words of Eunice (not her real name), another officer of BKCI, “Nasa presinto na ako noon, tapos narinig ko yung isang bos tsip nila na lumapit sa umaresto sa akin at sinabi niya na aarborin na lang daw niya ako. Walang tanung-tanong, basta ang sabi sa akin sumama na lang daw ako para huwag akong makulong. Dalidali akong pinasakay sa kotse. Labag man sa loob ko pero inisip ko na lang mas okay na ito kaysa sa makulong o magbayad, may dalawa pa akong anak na naghihintay sa akin ngayong gabi. Isang linggo niya akong ginamit nang paulit-ulit at tuwing nababagansya ako ay aarborin niya ako at dadalhin sa motel.”