A first-term congressman on Saturday urged the House of Representatives and the Senate to immediately pass a bill that increases the punishable offenses under the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004 or Republic Act 9262 to help stem the spike of VAWC cases caused by lockdowns imposed to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.
“I urge my colleagues to pass the Anti-Violence Against Partners and their Children bill so that we can help protect victims of domestic violence, who are increasing by the day because of the pandemic,” Deputy Majority Leader and Rizal Rep. Fidel Nograles said.
“Let us not let the measure strengthening the protection of woman and children remain pending,” Nograles added.
House Bill 4888, or the Anti-Violence Against Partners and their Children (Anti-VAPC) bill, which Nograles filed in 2019, increased the covered acts under RA 9262 to include electronic violence done against partners and their children.
A survey conducted by Plan International of more than 25,000 young women showed an increase in reports of sexual harassment online, circulation of lewd photos and videos, and online sexual exploitation.
Plan International added that besides a lack of awareness on where and how to report cases, girls who reported cases online and offline were unaware of the status of their cases and that authorities did not respond to these reports.
Nograles’s bill also seeks to include as an act of violence the creation of fake social media accounts to sow intrigue and inflict harm.
“Any act of violence perpetuated as hate crimes against partners and their children would also be considered a special aggravating circumstance, which would impose the maximum penalty on the violator,” the bill provides.
According to the 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority, one in four Filipino women aged 15-49 has experienced physical, emotional or sexual violence by their husband or partner.
Meanwhile, a UNFPA-commissioned study by the UP Population Institute projected around 12,100 cases of physical or sexual violence or both against married women per month due to the community quarantine.
The report added that 144,000 women aged 15 to 49 are experiencing sexual or physical violence by their husbands or partners. It also said that many are less likely to seek help or report such cases to authorities.
Nograles, vice chair of the House committee on justice, urged the government to ensure the safety of women and children, and reassure them of support by “being visible, vigilant, and compassionate.”
Government needs to double down its efforts at enforcing laws against violence, the lawmaker said, and use modern tools to combat VAWC.