22 June 2005
More than 100 women mobilized by the Women Working Together to Stop Violence Against Women (WWTSVAW) trooped to the Supreme Court today to support the filing of the disbarment complaint against Atty. Rodrigo A. Reyna. The disbarment complaint against Atty. Reyna was filed earlier today at the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) office in Pasig. The complaint stems from a series of “questionable” conduct by the said lawyer, as well as accusations alleging his involvement in the Iris Alberto rape and kidnapping case. Reyna serves as the legal counsel of alleged perpetrators, Arturo S. Calianga, and son Gil Calianga. Atty. Reyna and the two Caliangas are known to be priests of the Mormon Church in the Philippines (Church of the Latter Day Saints).
Iris Alberto’s case is probably one of the gravest and monstrous documented cases of sexual violence. Iris’ ordeal started at the age of 17. She has survived kidnapping, forcible abduction, multiple rape and sexual slavery. By coming out and filing the cases against the perpetrators, Iris gave a human face and voice to countless women who have endured and survived similar experiences of sexual violence.
Supplemental petitions related to the pending cases and appeals were submitted to the Department of Justice (DOJ). To show their support for Iris and their commitment against violence against women, women leaders accompanied Iris, her family and legal counsel in filing the disbarment complaint and other petitions.
Events in recent months related to VAW cases dramatically demonstrated the danger being faced by human rights defenders like activists, women’s rights lawyers and therapists/counselors providing services to Iris and other survivors of VAW. The spate of killings in recent months of critical and outspoken mass media practitioners underscored the need for mass media, human rights defenders and civil society to work hand-in-hand in exposing cases of violence against women and other forms of serious human rights violations.
Survivors of VAW need all the help they can get, most especially if the perpetrators of the violence are rich and powerful. By coming out, narrating her ordeal and filing criminal cases against the perpetrators, Iris may have put herself, her family and the human rights defenders helping her in greater danger. For Iris, her quest for justice could be part of her dealing with the trauma and hopefully be the start of her healing process.
Iris’ case can be an opportunity for the Philippine government to demonstrate and exercise due diligence—to prevent Violence Against Women (VAW), protect women from VAW and investigate and punish perpetrators. The concept of ‘due diligence of the State’ is valuable in assessing the accountability of governments for the acts of private individuals and groups. States are required to make sure that the rights recognized under Human Rights law are made a reality.
It is the responsibility of the State to respect, protect and fulfill women’s rights. Integral to this is ensuring freedom from violence, especially of women and children.
We challenge and take to task the Philippine government and the relevant government agencies such as the Supreme Court and the Department of Justice to exercise due diligence and make enlightened decisions related to the case of Iris Alberto and the many other survivors of VAW. Today, on the eve of the ‘second anniversary’ of the abduction of Iris Alberto which took place on June 23, 2003, we launch our campaign “Stop Violence Against Women! Justice for Iris, Justice for all Survivors of Violence Against Women!” It is a way of pledging our continued commitment to work for the elimination of violence against women.