As we celebrate National Women’s Month this March, it is important to recognize the significant achievements and strength of women while also highlighting issues that remain globally prevalent, such as gender inequality and violence against women. Although the Philippines has made progress in protecting women’s rights, it is crucial to acknowledge the alarming data regarding violence against Filipino women.
The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) reported disturbing statistics in 2017 regarding the country’s state of violence against Filipino women, calling it “one of our pervasive social problems.” According to the 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey cited by the PCW, “one in four women from the age of 15 to 49 has experienced physical, emotional, or sexual violence by their husband or partner.” Unfortunately, the cases of violence against Filipino women almost tripled during the pandemic lockdowns, as vulnerable women were trapped in their own homes with their abusers for months.
While some government and non-government organizations have implemented mechanisms to address this issue, this harsh reality should urge the government to give more power to laws that protect women and to make significant efforts to combat this social problem. The more people and groups involved in this cause, especially among the youth, the better.
One of the latest platforms raising awareness of the plight of women is Cayetano in Action with Boy Abunda (CIA with BA), a legal advice TV program co-hosted by Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Pia Cayetano, and King of Talk Boy Abunda. Airing every Sunday night on GMA 7, the program has tackled four real-life cases where women were physically and sexually abused, ridiculed, and habitually cheated upon by their partners out of the five episodes aired.
Continuing the legacy of their late father, Senator Rene “Compañero” Cayetano, in helping Filipinos become knowledgeable about the country’s laws and how they can be applied in real-life situations, Senators Alan Peter and Pia seek to provide legal advice and other forms of assistance to those who seek guidance. With both Cayetano siblings equipped with extensive lawmaking experience and skills in practicing law, the show educates the public on which laws to apply to their situations, particularly helpful for women trapped in abusive situations.
One of the earliest cases the show handled involved an unemployed man who fathered children with two different women. He had been living with the first woman and their children when he had two children with the second, whom he apparently never intended to support financially. The second woman’s child also sustained physical injury from the man’s wife.
Senator Alan counseled the man to accept responsibility and work hard to provide his children with a better life by offering to help him gain employable skills through a Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) course. Senator Pia, for her part, encouraged the second woman to empower herself financially so she would not need to rely on anyone to support her children.
Regarding the physical injury sustained by the second woman’s children, Senator Alan assured her that the law was on her side in case she decided to file a case against the first woman. In the end, CIA with BA helped the second woman put up a small sari-sari store, and the man heeded the advice of the two lawyer-senators by fulfilling his responsibilities as father to his children with both women.
Senators Alan Peter and Pia Cayetano consistently walk the talk in helping Filipino women know their rights and uphold their interests in the show. They collaborate with the government to aid them, such as with barangay officials, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the Department of Health for medical assistance.
There seriously needs to be more collaborative platforms like CIA with BA to address women’s issues. If the Philippines is genuinely dedicated to combating violence against women, then it must establish and maintain more mechanisms for this purpose. Government agencies, leaders, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) should not only participate in this effort but also wholeheartedly support this crusade.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
JV Arcena is a multi-awarded communications professional, media strategist, and a former presidential communications official. Under his watch, JV created innovations in communicating policy messages, such as the first virtual presser and virtual tour in the country. These innovations received local and international awards, and he won as “Media Hero of the Year” twice and “Government Hero of the Year” from the world’s premier award-winning body, the Stevie Awards, in 2020 and 2021. Prior to joining the Philippine government, he previously worked for the U.S. Department of State’s Asia-Pacific Regional Media Hub and for TV5 as political reporter covering the Palace, elections, disasters, global and regional issues, the judiciary, among others.