Rape victim having hard time getting case records at DSWD, says lawyer
MANILA, Philippines — A rape victim, who alleged she was sexually abused five years ago by two relatives of a Caloocan City politician, claimed on Thursday that the local court and the Department of Social Welfare Development (DSWD) have been either wittingly or unwittingly preventing the revival of the accusation by denying her access to records of her own case.
The 21-year-old victim “Mila” insisted that no politician had asked her to surface but was stirred into seeking the possible revival of the case after seeing one of her alleged molesters campaigning for public office.
At a press conference on Thursday at the Quezon Memorial Circle, Mila simply told reporters, “I saw him campaigning in front of our house in Bagong Barrio.”
Lawyer Trixie Angeles said that she took on Mila’s case two or three weeks ago and had started looking into it by seeking records from the Caloocan City regional trial court branch 131, which dismissed the rape charge three years ago, and the DSWD National Capital Region (NCR) which handled the litigation for the then 16-year-old victim.
She told reporters that the DSWD-NCR had invoked the confidentiality of the case although she had informed them that Mila was asking for the records. The confidentiality, the lawyer said, extended to the case number.
Angeles also claimed that she fared no better in the Caloocan City regional trial court, which had advised her to file the necessary motions, for entry of appearance and the release of records, although she already presented authorization documents given to her by the rape victim and private complainant.
“That means the court has to resolve after a hearing whether to release the records to the case or not,” the lawyer told the Inquirer after the press conference. She added that while it would be fair for the court to deny indiscriminately all the parties to the suit access to the records of the case, the policy was ridiculous.
According to Angeles, Mila, who only reached grade 2, does not even know why the case was dismissed and at what stage of the proceedings because she was in the custody of the DSWD-NCR for the duration of the trial.
An April 19 response signed by DSWD-NCR director Alicia Bonoan to a letter by the victim, who was admitted to the agency from April, 2008 to November, 2011, seeking records of the case stated that while the receipt of the request was acknowledged, “The purpose on the request of the said documents was not indicated in your letter.”
Bonoan further wrote: “We regret to inform you that as per policy, we cannot provide you the case folder as we observe strict confidentiality on the files of our residents. However, we can assist you on whatever plan/actions you are going to make.”
She then said that Mila’s counsel could coordinate with the social worker to discuss the matter.
Angeles told reporters that they would like to send the DSWD a “letter of concern” over its policy of not releasing records to the actual victim “even if the victim has reached maturity.” The letter she plans to write to the agency would question the policy on confidentiality of records.
“This is not exactly the ideal case. The victim is barely educated and she was out late at night. But she is a rape victim,” she said.
(With additional reports from Bernadette Nicolas, Inquirer intern)