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ASIA: Women's views on prevention of torture - Interview 36

An interview conducted by the Asian Human Rights Commission. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the AHRC.


AHRC-STM-161-2010Philippines -- "I don't understand the crap about involving the citizenry to secure and protect the community"

Prof. Belinda Sales Canlas, 44 years old, is an advocate of gender, women and men empowerment in her community. She also gives talks and training to the local police force in General Santos City, Mindanao. She was a spokesperson of a former city mayor, a lecturer at a local university and FM radio disc jockey.


What do you think of the policing system of your country? Is it good? Or do you think it should be different?  

The policing system here is just average. It is not good nor bad, just plain average. The institution keeps on saying it lacks the manpower to secure the citizenry. On top of that, they keep urging and motivating the citizenry to get involved to protect the community itself.

Like for example in my community, there were several cases of theft. Who do we run to? Not a super hero, the police, naturally. When I brought up the theft and burglary cases with a police official, he gave me the 'piece' on community involvement. I was tempted to say, Hey, Isn't it your job to protect and secure us so we can sleep peacefully at night and by morning in turn, serve the country through the kind of work we do? We are contributing to society's good as well!

What I am saying is we all contribute to society. But since we opted not to join the police force and serve the country through the kind of work we do, those who chose to serve the country through police work must ensure our security and protection so we rise up each morning, alive and intact and ready to serve the country through our jobs. It is a symbiotic relationship. Frankly, I don't understand the crap about involving the citizenry to secure and protect the community. Hey, if that's the philosophy, then we should all join the police force.

The police institution is a huge organization. Where's the bottleneck then? Budget? Priority? What is the priority of the police organization? Is it intelligence work? Is it petty crimes? Big crimes? Of course because of the myriad troubles confronting society, they could be spreading themselves too thin. But there must be a focus. Where is that focus? What is that focus? Compounding the problem are the undisciplined citizens who choose to disobey the law deliberately. Many Filipinos deliberately ignore a simple traffic rule.

Petty crimes like theft are always blamed on poverty. This is total hogwash. Poverty is in the head. Many Filipinos are shackled by the culture of poverty. It is a lousy excuse. The thieves are not poor people. They are just too lazy to make a decent living. And they chose to be uneducated.

So policing should be done differently. It should suit the requirements of the city, municipality and province they serve. Policing should be flexible and adaptable. What's applicable in one area may not be true in another area.

Mindanao is most especially unique because of the diversity of cultures hosted by the island. Policing flexibility should be applied but the law must be applied to all. Make no mistake about it, the law applies to all.


What do you think of the police use of torture? Good, Bad? Kindly explain

I am not sure if torture will facilitate the confession of a criminal. Is this the intent of this question?

We all see all forms of torture played out in films and they either succeed or fail depending on the character portrayed by the actor.

I am not sure what my stand is. There are criminals caught red-handed like rapists and I would like them severely punished, physically that is, for the evil that they do. Then they can rot in jail.

Will the physical punishment constitute torture? I am citing this as an example because the victim suffers physically, psychologically, emotionally, mentally and even socially from the rapist's hands and yet, the law gives him due process. After the evil that he has done, the law provides him due process without physical punishment? Where's justice in that?


What is your idea of a good relationship between the police and citizens?  

One based on trust. I trust my police force to deliver the goods. I expect them to be snappy, alert, focused and willing to go the extra mile without complaints.

In turn, I will give them respect and full support.

I have always supported the police organization. In fact, on two occasions, I have undertaken Seminar-Trainings for them gratis. One Short Course on Public Speaking for the Regional Mobile Group (RMG) 12 on March 25-31, 2004; another Public Speaking Training for PHILDARE-Gen. Santos City police officers on February 10, 17 and March 3, 2007.

I always give them my best so I expect only the best from them.


If you have a problem, would you feel safe to go to the police and complain?  

Yes, I naturally go to them. What's frustrating is the part where you are told: "the best way to fight criminality is to involve the citizenry". Enough of that motherhood statement and just show me the stuff that real police work is made of!


Is there a domestic violence law in your country? If yes, is it well implemented? If none, what are the problems? 

Yes, there is a law. The Philippines is not wanting in this area. There are laws that protect women. 

There is a law against domestic violence. However, information dissemination on these laws is wanting. It's like the job of disseminating the provisions and substance of these laws rest solely on women advocates; women groups and the like.

The police children and women desk also handles the information dissemination but it is limited because the women police officers manning this desk are already constrained by their job functions and responsibilities. I know some of the women manning the children and women desks in the city. They are very competent, dedicated and passionate about their work and they should be commended. However, they are only a handful, and their resources are limited.

In my gender and women advocacy work, we have conducted trainings on gender sensitivity, anti-sexual harassment, domestic violence and related topics. We see that people are still confined by the prevailing norms such as domestic violence being a family matter.

Our experiences allowed us to see the cycle of violence repeated because the wife forgives the husband until the next violent act comes along. We see a wife embarrassed and afraid to report a violent act committed upon her because the husband holds a powerful job. We saw on national television a government official who beat his common law wife and got away with it because eventually the woman withdrew the charges. This happens because the man has power and resources.

So, the culture of machismo still prevails.


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