Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Women in law enforcement
Classmates and I with female PNP officers
following is my Think Piece on our visit to the Philippine National Police to talk to women law enforcers
I always look at presentations of plans and programs with a critical eye. Especially when it is the Philippine National Police doing the talking.
Earlier this year, I wrote an investigative report of how rape victims in the Philippines do not quite know how and where to start doing something about their situation (http://verafiles.org/systemic-silencing-little-incentive-to-cry-rape/). A law mandates the establishment of Women and Children Protection Unit in public hospitals, where victims are given a ‘holistic’ approach to recovery. There are medical examinations, psychological counseling, legal advice. In reality, there is hardly a complete complement of such professionals. The victims are then made to go from one agency to the next, tiring them, costing them precious pesos – until they give up altogether.
I specifically sought the help of the Philippine National Police to find out whether it had the capability to conduct DNA tests to improve the prosecution of cases. I dropped by unannounced at the Crime Laboratory one afternoon in February or March, after failing – for weeks! – to set up an interview with Superintendent Lorlei Arroyo. Earlier, the Philippine Star featured the hi-tech acquisitions at the PNP Crime Lab (obviously a PR job) and concluded that the police would now be able to solve more crimes, especially the high-profile ones. That really irked me: What about crimes involving ordinary, low-profile citizens? A male official bragged about the acquisitions and the construction of the new crime lab building as if that was supposed to assure citizens of speedier resolution of crimes.
I also dropped by the Women and Children Protection Center, also in Crame, to ask about the process that was followed should a rape victim walk in. Where would she be directed and how will she be treated? But it was a Friday and everybody was preparing to attend…Mass. The female officer in charge that day – I wasn’t able to get her name – walked past me many times saying AT ME they had no time “para sa mga media-media na yan.” Still, I didn’t leave, so finally they allowed members of the WCPC team to talk to me. But they were civilian social workers – not members of the PNP. They talked in very vague, general terms.
I thought, then, if I could be treated that way, how much more victims of rape or other forms of abuse who could be a lot less assertive?
It was with this bitter taste in the mouth that I sat down last Monday to hear about the “gender sensitive” plans, programs and activities of the PNP. There is no doubt that at the policy level, the PNP has given gender issues a lot of thought. But there always remains a gap between theory and practice.
That is as far as the PNP deals with its external clients, the general citizenry. I can only hope that the field women’s desks are immensely more responsive to the needs of those who come to them.
The upbeat demeanor of the women officers we met with prompted me to wonder whether they themselves have had personal experiences of chauvinism, sexual harassment, intimidation and other condescending behavior from their superiors. Had I asked them, would they have replied truthfully? I have no way of knowing.
Nonetheless, the takeaway – that women are not out there to supplant the men – is priceless. The rather simplistic idea that emerges at the mention of “gender” is that women can do whatever men can do, and that equality means war between the sexes.
It must be accepted that men and women have certain inherent traits and that these traits are different for each. Thus, better results can be achieved if the two complemented each other rather that competed with each other. Being feminine and reveling in the “feminine” qualities is not a disservice to the gender issue. These must be celebrated – as must the “masculine” traits of the men.
The female police officers say, candidly, that they would either be married to their career or to somebody who is a fellow police officer. An “ordinary” man would most likely not be able to understand, much less appreciate, that his wife could be dedicated to her job at the PNP and that such dedication would affect her performance of her duties as wife and mother. We see here, thus, that socially-constructed expectations still exist. But of course. These constructs have been there for hundreds of years and any change cannot be drastic but gradual. The change in mindset may be observed not from one month or one year to the next, but across generations.
It’s going to be a long struggle, still, to achieve gender sensitivity in a male-dominated environment such as the PNP. The initial gains, however, and the promise give us something to look forward to.