Women’s Front: Justice for victims 0f child abuse in Sagada

By INNABUYOG
www.nordis.net

There are not enough words to really express our outrage over a series of acts of lasciviousness and sexual abuse committed against our children here in Sagada. As mothers, it is agonizing to learn that our children fell victim to such an atrocious crime. We wail for them for they had to suffer such traumatic experiences in their tender years.

We wail but at the same time, we condemn in the strongest terms the crimes committed against our children by a certain Rolando Baldrin aka Vishokananda Yogi or simply Vishok who has been residing in Sagada for the last five years or so working as a massage therapist and a wellness instructor.

The accounts of the child victims are similar. Poverty is a factor. The children fetch water for Vishok in exchange for P20. They are then convinced to enter his room looking forward to receiving their earnings. But instead of giving the money, Vishok locks the door, gets naked, shows them indecent sexual acts, and through threat of force, engages them to “massage” his groin and penis. After being done with them, he then gives them P30 to P40. School kids as young as 5 years old were also exploited through the obscene shows Vishok lets them watch inside his apartment.

As of today, there are nine young girls and boys aged 5 to 16 who were victimized by Vishok. We are aghast for the torture our children had to endure. One child even cries just by the mention of the perpetrator’s name. Few others experience selective mutism. Another, now a Grade 11 Senior High School student, got pregnant and gave birth last June of this year. She is firm that Vishok is the father of her child but not her boyfriend, and that she will not marry him should he ask her. Her firm stand should be a challenge to all of us.

We also condemn the local police and the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office (MSWD) for turning a blind eye to the complaints against Vishok and for not giving ample attention to protect the rights and welfare of the victims.

“Maid pulos garud seg-ang san nangaramid, ulay nan pupulis ya MSWD ket awan pay umannatop nga aramid da!” This is the statement of the mother of one of the victims which echoes our frustration and disappointment over the response of the police and the MSWD to this alarming incident. Yes, the unwarranted bloody war on drugs has been a hit for the past months but should that make violence against our children a lesser priority?

Yes, the citizen’s arrest we conducted may not conform with the law, but should we be tied up to such laws given that our children are in danger? The police’s and MSWD’s lack of persistence to pursue the case alarmed and forced us to do the arrest. Worse, such inefficiency eventually resulted to the administered escape of the perpetrator in the wee hours of August 3 to god-knows-where.

We have embraced Vishok as part of our community even though we have no clear background as to who he is. We trusted him like we trust each other. Thus, what he did is unacceptable, deplorable, and contrary to our values as Igorots, more so, as human beings.

First, it is absolutely forbidden to assault children, whether or not they are your relatives. They are priceless treasures that should be nurtured and safeguarded at any cost. Only men or women with no honor can do such crime against them. And the actions or lack thereof of the concerned agencies give the impression that our community does not care what happens to our children – that we do not trust in their honesty such that their statements which is a clear shout for help are dismissed as heresy and do not warrant immediate investigation or action.

Second, we do not coddle law offenders though we consider visitors as one of our own. More so, we do not condone such crimes. Sagada is a haven not for criminals but for peace-loving citizens.

We say, enough with the abuses against women and children! Enough with the culture of silence and victim-blaming! We wail, but we say, enough! This is a time to show our community solidarity that has been crucial to our survival since time immemorial. There is no doubt that it is just right for all of us to stand for the protection of our children.

Thus, we fight with clenched fists!

Kakailians, let us unite and search for the perpetrator and insist on his prosecution. Also, let us hold the police, the MSWD, and the local government responsible for not upholding, protecting, and fulfilling the rights of our children.

Mabtad tako to seek justice for the victims of child and sexual abuse. Let us put an end to abuses by raising the banner of inter-tribal unity and aspire for a society free from violence for us and for our children. Let us work for a society with a progressive culture that respects women and children and regard their potential as nation-builders and hopes of the nation.

Justice for the victims of sexual abuse!
Hold the concerned agencies accountable!
Mabtad tako amin! # nordis.net

This is a statement of Babbai Ipinget ti Naregta ken Nadur-as a Dangadang (BINNADANG), the chapter of Innabuyog in Mountain Province. — Ed

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