UNICEF condemns killing of 15-year-old girl in Ilocos Sur
Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - July 7, 2020 - 4:51pm

MANILA, Philippines — The United Nations International Children's Fund (UNICEF) called for justice for the killing of Fabel Pineda, the 15-year-old girl shot dead in Ilocos Sur shortly after accusing two police officers of sexual harassment.

In an earlier statement sent to reporters, Police Gen. Archie Gamboa, Philippine National Police chief, said that he wants the "stiffest penalty" for Police Staff Sgts. Randy Ramos and Marawi Torda, who are now facing murder and rape charges and a case of acts of lasciviousness.

In a statement, UNICEF urged the government to increase the institutional capacity, particularly on the level of local police force and barangay workers, as regards to the implementation of the law involving child-sensitive protocols.

"Fabel’s death is made even more painful by the manner of her passing and the violence she suffered...UNICEF supports the statement of PNP chief General Archie Gamboa that the perpetrators must be held accountable for the heinous crime committed so that Fabel and her family will get the justice they deserve," their statement read. 

"As we experience a new normal in this pandemic, let us not allow Fabel and countless children who are speaking out against violence to be silenced by our indifference and inaction. We hope that hereon, all children in need of protection and care will be heard and prioritized for swift action and empathetic response," it added. 

The Commission on Human Rights also condemned the killing, saying that it would be launching its own independent probe into the incident. 

At the Laging Handa press briefing on Tuesday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said: "The PNP has integrity and by and large, they are professional. Maybe it's because of the large number of cops within their ranks that there are some bad apples, but let's wait for the outcome of the investigation."

Killing 'diminishes trust in uniformed personnel'

The killing came almost a month after Gamboa and the Palace urged victims to come forward to report and file complaints on alleged harassment by police officers.

The Center for Women’s Resources said it has recorded 33 cases of violence against women committed by police officers since July 2016, while the National Baseline Study on Violence against Children—a study by the government supported by UNICEF—found that around 1 in 5 Filipino children suffer from sexual violence. 

RELATED: PNP Women and Children Protection Center defends performance from complaints online

Even the PNP's Women and Children Protection Center has acknowledged "a total of 5,049 investigations, 3,628 arrests with 3,462 inquest proceedings" from March 16, 2020 to June 15, 2020. 

In its statement, UNICEF pointed out that the country is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, rendering it "duty-bound to uphold children’s right to life and to develop their potentials and capacities, to create a safe environment for children to be heard, and to protect children from all forms of violence."

PNP should review protocols on handling harassment cases

For its part, the Child Rights Network called on the national police to review its manual of operations in handling cases of child rape and child molestation, even urging them to submit a report on how these operating procedures are implemented in local stations

"This incident cannot and should not be simply swept under the rug and effectively erased in the public’s perception. At a time when the citizenry have no choice but to strictly follow quarantine rules, having State implementers that take advantage of these situations to commit crimes not only put the government in a bad light but severely diminishes the public’s trust in our uniformed personnel," the network said in a statement sent to reporters. 

"We also call on the Government to not only thoroughly investigate the crime and obtain justice for the child victims, but also check its implementation of quarantine rules that expose children to grave danger because of the abuses by people in authority that go unchecked," it added.

"The Government needs to prioritize appropriate, ample, and urgent response to sexual violence. We cannot wait for another Fabel to fall victim to sexual violence and even murder. One life is one too many."

'Worthless cops'

In an earlier statement sent to reports, Gamboa said that he wants the "stiffest penalty" for the two, namely Police Staff Sgts. Randy Ramos and Marawi Torda, who are now facing murder and rape charges and a case of acts of lasciviousness.

The two "are now under restrictive custody at the Ilocos Sur Police Provincial Office in Bantay town while awaiting further disposition by the court," the statement said. 

”They are not men in uniform but animals who deserve to be jailed for life. Walang awa, walang puso, walang kwentang pulis (No sympathy, no hearts, two worthless cops),” the country's top cop said.

National Police Commission Regional Office 1 (Ilocos Region) also disclosed that "a separate and independent investigation is undertaken by the regional office through its Provincial Officer for Ilocos Sur."

Regional police leadership has since been ordered to ensure the availability of all PNP prosecution witnesses in court proceedings to expedite the trial as well as the filing of administrative procedures. 

"As we experience a new normal in this pandemic, let us not allow Fabel and countless children who are speaking out against violence to be silenced by our indifference and inaction. We hope that hereon, all children in need of protection and care will be heard and prioritized for swift action and empathetic response," UNICEF said. — with a report from Bella Perez-Rubio

COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE UNICEF UNITED NATIONS
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