This woman says she has opened an "iron door" for other women in the police force.
Chief Superintendent Yolanda Tanigue, a licensed social worker, is the first policewoman to become a chief superintendent — a position equivalent to a one-star general in the military — in the male-dominated Philippine National Police (PNP).
"(Lower-ranking policewomen) are very happy for me. My promotion made them realize that a simple policewoman can be a general. Parang nabuksan ko ang isang bakal na pinto para sa lahat ng policewomen na makapasok (It seems I have opened an iron door for other policewomen to enter)," Tanigue, a former city police chief, told The STAR shortly after taking her oath as a general.
PNP chief Director General Oscar Calderon pinned the star on Tanigue’s shoulder board during a simple ceremony at the PNP headquarters in Quezon City yesterday. Calderon was assisted by Imelda Roces, vice chairman of the National Police Commission (Napolcom), and lawyer Katrina Legarda.
Tanigue spent most of her 26 years in police force at the Women and Children Concerns Division (WCCD), hearing out and helping women and children who have suffered abuse, mostly sexual in nature.
Calderon said Tanigue’s promotion to star rank shows the responsiveness of the national government and the PNP leadership to promote gender equality in the police force, where almost nine percent of personnel are female.
"The PNP advocates the gender awareness and development in all aspects of administrative and operational activities, and female members are given equal opportunity as their male counterparts,"Calderon said.
Tanigue, concurrent head of the WCCD and executive officer of the Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management (DIDM), is the first female officer to become a general in the PNP’s 15-year history, after police Brig. Gen. Luisa Dimayuga of the defunct Integrated National Police (INP).
Tanigue rose from the ranks as a police lieutenant commissioned in the INP in 1980. She was a former police chief of San Pablo City and task group commander under Task Force Zebra, which was responsible for operations and investigations against establishments that cater to prostitution.
"This is an honor with pride but I take it not just for me but for other policewomen who are here now and for abused women and children, who have been my inspiration to further come up with programs to help and protect them," said the 51-year-old Tanigue.
Tanigue admitted that the job at the WCCD is stressful — and the stories they hear from victims of abuse haunt them in their sleep.
To help de-stress policewomen, Tanigue said WCCD is coming up with a program that would have each policewoman undergo stress debriefing every three months.
Before she started at WCCD, Tanigue said she served as police chief of San Pablo City in Laguna, wherein she gained the courage to face dangerous jobs.
"May madaling araw na kailangan kong pumunta sa isang patayan, hindi ko maiwasang matakot, pero sabi ko sa sarili ko, ito ang sinumpaan kong tungkulin, nawawala ’yung takot ko (There are some nights that I would go to the scene of a killing in the wee hours of the morning, and I could not help but be afraid. But when I tell myself that this is my sworn duty, my fears would disappear)," she said.
Unlike most police generals — who graduated from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA)— Tanigue is a licensed social worker who earned her degree from Mabini College in Daet, Camarines Norte. She joined the PNP as a non-uniformed personnel and later underwent training that allowed her to join the police organization on lateral entry with the rank of lieutenant.
Tanigue said she wanted to be assigned to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology but the PNP leadership did not permit her to transfer from the then Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police (PC-INP) because she had to stay to "compensate" the expense she incurred for taking up flying courses with the Aviation Group.
"Flying is my skill but not my career," Tanigue said. "My heart is really for women and children."
Being in the uniformed services is not foreign to Tanigue, whose maternal grandfather served in the military. She also has two uncles serving in the Philippine Army and Philippine Air Force.
Despite her busy schedule, Tanigue still finds time to be with her three daughters, who have been supportive of her career.
Chit Guevarra, a non-uniformed member of the staff, said Tanigue’s children visit her at the office when she is too busy to go out with them. Guevarra knows Tanigue from her days as a non-uniformed personnel.