Press Release
October 13, 2010

Privilege Speech of Sen. Juan Miguel F. Zubiri

Mr. President, my distinguished colleagues, I humbly ask for your contemplation and undivided attention as I once again stand on this chamber to condemn in the strongest possible terms the continuing heinous crimes being committed in the far south islands of this country particularly Maguindanao, the latest and most distressing of which is the crime committed against a volunteer nurse veiled under the name of Florence.

Unlike Florence Nightingale, the heroine nurse of England, our Florence was found at the back of a hospital in South Upi, Maguindanao, unconscious and half naked, undoubtedly a victim of sadistic rape. Florence, a simple lass, whose only endeavour was to serve the poor people hungry of medical attention became a helpless victim of evil and wicked crooks. She endured severe damage in her brain causing her right part of the body to be paralyzed and further suffered a speech defect. Indisputably my distinguished colleagues, Mr. President, Florence is going through a lot of pain and agony right now, not only in terms of her physical body but above all, her entire well being, as a person, as a woman.

Initially authorities arrested six suspects however no strong evidence so far implicating them exists. Then here comes a man named Melchor Fulgencio admitting that he and a certain "Edwin" was the real culprit. As of yesterday, however, Fulgencio withdrew his testimony and, as usual, claimed that he was merely tortured to admit to the commission of the crime. Another angle being looked into is the involvement of a politician's son. With all of these, it is obvious that the fight of Florence is far from over and justice will be evasive.

I admit I may never fully understand or know what she is going through and what else she will be going through after her darkest and dreadful nightmare but at least I can envision, as each one of us can, how heavy her battle will be as she stands up and fights for justice. A rape victim's life definitely turns 180 degrees, suffering from unwarranted judgment of callous people and enduring discrimination from the society, aside from the threat and intimidations usually resorted to by the perpetrators and let's not forget the tedious, expensive and grueling legal battle to attain justice.

I believe that we, as legislators of this country and humble servants of the Filipino people have done the best that we can do in terms of legislation to help rape victims and the society as well. Republic Act No. 8353, The Anti-Rape Law of 1997, made vital and relevant changes to the law on rape. One of which is that rape is now a crime against person and no longer a crime against chastity, with this the State can now prosecute even without the complaint of the rape victim, making it hard for the offenders to avoid prosecution. Another relevant change is the manner by which rape can be committed has been broadened, rape can now be committed by means other than sexual intercourse. Also we have Republic Act No. 8505, the "Rape Victim Assistance and Protection Act of 1998." that mandates the establishment of rape crisis centers in every province or city, to be located in a government hospital or health clinic or in any other suitable place.

Mr. President, as a Minadanaonon, I am deeply disturbed and concerned with what is happening in my native island. I am also deeply concerned with the increase of rape cases all over the country. The increase is so alarming that it should frighten every decent individual of our nation. We should commit ourselves to the Filipino people not only in enacting adequate and significant laws protecting their lives, property and making this country a better place to live in, but further ensuring that all laws enacted by this august chamber will be implemented and will be used by every Filipino as a weapon against anyone or anything which will disturb and threaten our peace and security. I appeal for the proper enforcement of our laws, predominantly criminal laws which time and again are being trampled and disregarded by barbaric and villainous people taking not only lives of innocent people but the peace and safety of society as well.

Demand on the authorities implementing the law and prosecutors of justice system are strongly urged by this Representation. Although I laud Secretary De Lima for personally following-up on this, I wish all the members of the prosecution arm of our government share her enthusiasm and passion as well as her ideals. I strongly believe that proper administration of justice is the firmest pillar of government. Let us ensure and do our part that a life of amity and security is still possible, for after peace comes the most awaited progress we are all hungry of.

Mr. President allow me to end this humble call for peace and justice by a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. "Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress." Thank you.

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