Sigfrid Fortun referred to it as a “breach of discipline”. I referred to it as “continuing trauma”. We were referring to the outburst of Myrna Reblando in the last hearing of the Ampatuan massacre case in Branch 221 of the Regional Trial Court in Quezon City. On the basis of newspaper reports, Myrna, while listening to the testimony of a medico-legal officer on the injuries sustained by some of the Mangudadatu kin, apparently left the court room distressed and, as one newspaper put it, “lost it”. She shouted invectives directed at Fortun and another defense counsel, Andres Manuel, who in a previous hearing asked another medico-legal officer if some of the fatal wounds of the victims could have been self-inflicted. Myrna has been controlling her temper ever since that question about the possibility of suicide. To her and the other victims, that question added insult to their grief.
In response to a letter filed by Fortun describing the incident as a security issue, we filed a motion for the court to order the Department of Health, the Department of Social Work and Development and the Department of Interior and Local government to provide all 14 of our female clients with psychosocial support.
We argued in our motion that the incident last 03 February 2011 “highlights their dire and urgent need for psychosocial support and other counseling facilities, so they can endure the tragic loss of their family members killed in the 23 November 2009 Maguindanao massacre”. Consequently, we sought for the ancillary remedy by way of support pendent lite in the form of “psychosocial” services to be provided to them during the pendency of this case. This, we said, was in accordance with the doctrine of the State as parens patriae, a doctrine long established in jurisprudence. This, in the case of Government of the Philippine Islands v. Monte de Piedad, citing foreign jurisprudence, was defined as the right of the state “to enforce all charities of public nature, by virtue of its general superintending authority over the public interests, where no other person is entrusted with it. “
We argued likewise that the duty to provide health and social services especially to women is enshrined in no less than the Philippine Constitution, and existing laws. Specifically, we invoked Republic Act No. 9710, otherwise known as the “The Magna Carta of Women” :
Section 10. Women Affected by Disasters, Calamities, and Other Crisis Situations. – Women have the right to protection and security in times of disasters, calamities, and other crisis situations especially in all phases of relief, recovery, rehabilitation, and construction efforts. The State shall provide for immediate humanitarian assistance, allocation of resources, and early resettlement, if necessary. It shall also address the particular needs of women from a gender perspective to ensure their full protection from sexual exploitation and other sexual and gender- based violence committed against them. Responses to disaster situations shall include the provision of services, such as psychosocial support, livelihood support, education, psychological health, and comprehensive health services, including protection during pregnancy.
Finally, we argued that RA 9710 especially mandates local government units—which are under the general supervision of the Department of the Interior and Local Government—to deliver necessary services and interventions to “women in especially difficult circumstances” :
Section 30. Women in Especially Difficult Circumstances. – For purposes of this Act, “Women in Especially Difficult Circumstances” (WEDC) shall refer to victims and survivors of sexual and physical abuse, illegal recruitment, prostitution, trafficking, armed conflict, women in detention, victims and survivors of rape and incest, and such other related circumstances which have incapacitated them functionally. Local government units are therefore mandated to deliver the necessary services and interventions to WEDC under their respective jurisdictions. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
Under International Human Rights law, victims are entitled not just to monetary compensation for civil damages sustained, but also to reparations. This latter principle is a broader concept compared to compensation since it also includes the restoration of the status quo ante, including the psychosocial condition of the victims. Hence, the duty of the state to provide psychosocial support.
Here’s hoping that Myrna’s outburst will usher in much needed reforms in the promotion of victims rights in this country.