UP Institute of Human Rights held Women’s Day Forum on gender-based violence in the post-pandemic digital age.
On 6 March 2023, the University of the Philippines Institute of Human Rights (UP IHR) organized a forum entitled “The Post-Pandemic State of Women’s Rights in the Philippines”. The event was in celebration of International Women’s Day and National Women’s Month.
Dean Edgardo Carlo Vistan II delivered the welcome remarks. He underscored the importance of women’s month as an opportune time to take stock of the state of women’s rights in the new normal. Meanwhile, in her opening speech, UP IHR Director Professor Elizabeth Aguiling-Pangalangan recognized the significance of Republic Act Number 9262 (the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act) in protecting women from different forms of violence. She, however, pointed out the gaps in the law especially in addressing the abuses suffered by women in cyberspace.
The first part of the forum centered on the situation of women’s rights in the digital age. Atty. Angela Marie M. De Gracia-Cruz, State Counsel at the Department of Justice’s Office of Cybercrime, tackled the existing women’s rights in cyberspace. She discussed various laws that protect women in the digital world namely, Republic Act Number 9262 (Anti-Violence against Women and their Children Act), Republic Act Number 10175 (Cybercrime Prevention Act), Republic Act Number 11313 (Safe Spaces Act), and Republic Act Number 11930 (Anti-OSAEC and Anti-CSAEM Act), and Republic Act Number 11862 (Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act). She pointed out the challenges in enforcing these laws and offered some solutions to address the issues. Meanwhile, Atty. Emily Manuel, Open Ownership’s Regional Manager for the Asia Pacific Region, gave her insights and comments on House Bill No. 8655, or the proposed Expanded Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children. She mainly argued that the current law does not take into account new technologies and welcomed the proposed expansion of the Anti-VAWC law as a positive development. She pointed out that the proposal expands the current VAWC definition to those conducted through electronic means as it introduces the concept of e-violence.
The second part focused on the development and recent jurisprudence on RA 9262. Prof. E. (Leo) Battad, Director of the University of the Philippines Gender Law and Policy Program, traced the country’s jurisprudential development on gender-based violence. She discussed various landmark cases promulgated by the Supreme Court before, during, and after the pandemic. Prof. Battad specifically critiqued the 2022 case of Knutson v. Flores where the court granted the remedy under RA 9262 against the mother herself. Philippine Commission on Women’s (PCW) Executive Director Atty. Kristine Rosary E. Yuzon-Chaves delivered through a pre-recorded video her discussion on the efforts of the PCW in advancing women’s rights in the new normal. She also commented on the current move to include men in the coverage of the proposed Anti-Domestic Violence Bill. Atty. Yuson-Chavez also hailed the proposed expanded Anti-VAWC Law as important in protecting women from various forms of gender-based violence. In the Q&A that followed, speakers and Ms. Maria Rebecca Rafaela Baylosis, Supervising Gender and Development Specialist of PCW, engaged in a robust discussion with the participants.
Women’s rights organizations actively participated in the open forum. They shared their experiences on the ground and called on the relevant government agencies to make such laws work for women, especially those who are in the margins. Both representatives from the government and various non-government, academic, and civil society organizations agreed that the best way forward is to employ the whole-of-society approach.
In her closing remarks, UP IHR’s Senior Law Reform Specialist Atty. Glenda Litong emphasized that gender-based violence remains to be a pernicious violence against human rights. She rallied everyone to do their part to counter all forms of violence and promote gender equality.
More than 80 participants from various non-government, private, academic, and civil society organizations attended the event. Among them were the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Undersecretary and Head of the Council for the Welfare of Children Atty. Angelo Tapales, former UN CEDAW Committee member Prof. Aurora Javate de Dios, ACCRALAW Senior Partner Atty. Trina Prodigalidad, PNP Quezon City District Anti-Cybercrime Group Team Leader Michael E. Bernardo, NUPL Secretary General Atty. Josalee Deinla, and GABRIELA National Chairperson Gertrudes R. Libang.