Speaker Lord Allan Velasco recently called on everyone to contribute to the elimination of violence against women and girls.
Velasco issued the call in his video message to participants of the forum on the “State of Local Response Mechanisms for Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and Violence Against Women (VAW).”
“Violence against women and girls is a social ill that must never be normalized. All of us are affected, and all of us must do our part to end it,” Velasco said.
This developed as some 14,000 cases of violence against women and children (VAWC) have been reported since the start of the coronavirus lockdowns, a year-on-year dip that may be due to underreporting and fear from victims, the director of the Philippine Commission on Women said Saturday.
In a public press briefing, PCW director Kristine Josefina Balmes said they tallied 13,932 VAWC cases from March 15, the start of the community quarantines, to November 30 this year.
Central Visayas tallied the highest number of cases per region, “thrice” as many as in Metro Manila, Balmes said.
Velasco added that with the forum, “I look forward to seeing how we could improve our processes to make our local response mechanism to gender-based violence more effective.”
He noted that domestic violence has worsened during the pandemic when people are forced to stay at home. Citing that studies proved perpetrators to also be victims of violence.
Velasco urged the attendees to take part in eradicating the cycle of domestic violence as well as honoring and protecting all women.
The House Committee on Women and Gender Equality, chaired by Bukidnon Rep. Maria Lourdes Acosta-Alba in cooperation with the Association of Women Legislators Foundation Inc., the House of Representatives Gender and Development Focal Point System, the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), Lunas Collective, and Angat Bayi, conducted the virtual forum.
The Committee on Women and Gender Equality organized the forum in observance of the 18-day campaign to end violence against women with the theme: “VAW-Free Community Starts with Me.”
In her opening remarks, Acosta-Alba said the forum seeks to tackle initiatives against VAW and GBV, including preventive measures, provision of services to survivors, accountability of abusers and perpetrators, as well as partnership with communities to ensure they have the capacity as first responders, among others.
“Violence against women is the biggest manifestation of gender inequality and discrimination. But the work begins where it happens. We will look into local strategies to be implemented in our respective districts,” Acosta-Alba said.
AWLFI president and Deputy Speaker Rose Marie “Baby” Arenas said that protection of women and children must be at the center of the country’s COVID-19 response.
“To women legislators of the 18th Congress, stand in solidarity with all individuals, groups in efforts to fight VAWC. We have to act to recover setbacks in the effort to protect women,” Arenas said.
Meanwhile, House Secretary General Mark Llandro Mendoza assured that the House is committed to back government efforts to eradicate VAW as well as ensure that the chamber is a safe space for women employees.