Thursday, February 19, 2009

Gang rape-murder in Antique

The rape-murder case has been in cyberspace in the last week or so. It took some time for the national media to take notice and in fact there’s still very little about the case in the media in spite of the heinous nature of the crime that was committed.

I got my first facts about the gang rape-murder case from Restituto Tapacal a.k.a. Antiqueno Sumakwel who has taken up the burden of contacting media institutions and persons and giving them the basics of the case. His nom de plume reminds me of the land where the seafaring Malay datus first settled and how they became part of our multi-racial ancestry. The datus’ major historical intrusion into aboriginal territory was not defined by brutality and bloodshed as far as I know. But that is another story.

Antiqueno Sumakwel could very well be the EveryAntiqueno. Writing about the rape-murder, he says Antique has not seen this kind of brutality since the murder of Evelio Javier in 1986. As I recall, Javier’s murder was brutal, yes, but death came swiftly. Martyrdom became him. He soon entered the pantheon reserved for the great men and women who shed their blood for love of country.

But the gang-rape murder of an innocent young teenager in the blush of maidenhood is a different story. Reading the account made me think of Ingmar Bergman’s “The Virgin Spring” (1960), an Oscar award-winning black-and-white masterpiece about the rape and murder of a girl in medieval Sweden. The crime cried out for vengeance. And vengeance there was.

Here now, in 2009, is a real case of brutal savagery crying out for brutal punishment.

On Jan. 30, Saturday, an unspeakable crime took place in Antique and shocked the peace-loving people who have not known anything like it. A teenage high school student and cheerleader was raped and murdered in a manner so heinous it was unprecedented in Antique’s history.

According to a report, that evening, the victim, an only daughter from a prominent family, was riding on a motorcycle with her boyfriend along a road in Barangay Dalipe when a group of men hit them with a wooden club. The boy lost consciousness. The men then brought the girl to a place called “Kampo”, an area near police headquarters. The men took turns raping the girl. And while they were brutalizing her, her cell phone rang. The girl’s mother was on the line asking about her daughter’s whereabouts. The man who answered the phone told the mother that her daughter was fornicating. He said it in a most vulgar way in the local dialect and I don’t want to quote what he said.

The girl was found dead the following day. She looked like she had been clubbed on the head. She could hardly be recognized because of the lacerations on her face. A sharp weapon had been used on her face. Her body bore marks of beating. Her sexual organ was slashed and stuffed with sand, plastic and pieces of wood.

Unknown to the rapists, the girl’s boyfriend regained consciousness and found his way home. He recalled what happened, how they were accosted by a group of men, but he could not say where the men took the girl. The victim’s father, upon learning about what befell his daughter, suffered a stroke and died.

An 18-year-old suspect has surrendered. Initial reports said that nine men participated in the crime. But the number could well be 15.

I hope nobody brings up the issue of the victim being out late in the day with her boy friend and therefore had it coming. Blaming a rape victim, a dead one at that, is brutalizing the victim all over again.

Rape is no longer a “private crime”. The Anti-Rape Law of 1997 classifies rape as “a crime against persons”. For a long time rape was considered merely as “a crime against chastity” which seemed to suggest that persons who were unchaste were fair game.

The Antique case deserves as much attention as the case of Subic rape victim “Nicole” and convict Lance Corporal Daniel Smith which is again in the news because of the custody issue.
I remember the day the Inquirer had the banner headline that “Nicole” was not, repeat not, a sex worker. Women’s groups were aghast because the headline seemed to suggest that if “Nicole” were a sex worker she would have been fair game. (The headline was a response to questions on who she was.)

Defense lawyers who dredge up the sexual reputation of rape victims and cast aspersions on their morality to bolster their defense of the accused should know this strategy could boomerang on them.

Here’s a quote from Susan Brownmiller, author of “Against Our Will”: “Man's discovery that his genitalia could serve as a weapon to generate fear must rank as one of the most important discoveries of prehistoric times. From the prehistoric times to the present, rape has played a critical function. It is a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear.”

As a feminist lawyer has emphasized, “Rape is not a crime against the hymen. It is a crime against the whole person.” It is a crime of the strong against the weak, it is a crime of conquest. The Subic rape case took on a political color because the accused were citizens of a former colonizing nation that still throws its weight around.


Romualda Gan-de la Torre, 89, Mommy de la Torre to a generation of activists, political detainees and militant church workers, passed on into the light on Feb. 13. Her remains will be laid to rest today in Naujan, Or. Mindoro. There will be a Mass and memorial service for her at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 22.