Establishing The City Of Tuguegarao's Response Mechanism And Protocol In Handling Gender-Based Violence (GBV) And Violence Against Women And Their Children (VAWC) Cases
One of the horrors this pandemic brought is the surge of gender-based violence. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), there was a 20% increase in domestic violence globally and the City of Tuguegarao also had its unfortunate share of this statistic. Gender-based violence is often overshadowed by other social issues, it is a sad reality that the cries of the victims are often left unheard. This is the issue that Coun. Mary Marjorie Martin-Chan of Tuguegarao aims to put into light.
A relatively young ordinance, this policy aims to establish a gender-sensitive approach to gender-based violence, not to mention to also streamline the response to such cases. Before its passage, Martin-Chan admitted that there was an inconsistency with how the police and social workers handled GBV reports. The councilor even shared stories of how some tried to report a case, but since the victim felt ridiculed or felt that the workers would not be able to help, they chose to stay silent instead. From Martin-Chan's words, "they don't trust the system". To aid this, the ordinance institutionalized protocols safeguarding the rights of the victims.
Since this is a sensitive issue, there are several factors Martin-Chan considered in writing the policy. First, it was to assess whether the community needs it during this pandemic. Secondly, to ensure that this ordinance will not be redundant to the existing laws for Violence Against Women and Children as well as the Gender and Development Code. And as with all sound legislations, Martin-Chan also considered the views of several NGOs who share the same advocacy: that is, ensuring that this ordinance will be a community effort. Another factor was to weigh the support of the barangays and the City Social Welfare Development, as they are the soldiers on the ground, the first to respond when a GBV case is first reported. During the committee hearing, Martin-Chan also used this as an opportunity to assess how the current system is working.
Besides these factors, another vital component is to remain sensitive to the reality of politics and continuously learn to navigate the game. Knowing this, Martin-Chan made all her fellow councilors co-authors of the policy. Indeed, a sense of ownership goes a long way, and the ordinance was passed.
While the ordinance was still far from its initial goals, such as the creation of a hotline for GBV cases, Martin-Chan ensured that the ordinance would keep progressing, albeit slowly. One of the constraints of every legislator is their limited capacity to implement laws, as this rests on the executive. Still, Martin-Chan triumphs this hurdle on her ordinance by creating capacity-building programs that focus on GBV cases response mechanism and tripartite consultations between the LGU, the police, and the CSWD for assessments and improvements of their current protocols. Towards the end, Martin-Chan stands firm that a legislator must know what their duties are: to craft efficient laws and make sure they are passed; neither should they act as executive assistants to their mayors, nor a charity worker giving alms. Martin-Chan emphasized that the spirit of the checks and balances is alive and strengthened because the legislator knows where they stand and what their job truly is; not merely a puppet, but one who has the power to change the lives of their constituents.