NGO: Drug war worsens ‘palit-puri’
“Kama o kulong” (bed or prison) was the question oftentimes posed by errant policemen to women who either were caught violating the law or had relatives facing charges.
And out of fear and desperation, they would agree to unwanted sexual intercourse that perpetrators “enjoyed with impunity,” Jean Enriquez, executive director of Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific (CATW-AP) told the Inquirer.
An international nongovernment organization that has been documenting cases of women forced to have sex with policemen in exchange for the dropping of charges against them or a family member, CATW-AP also provides first aid and empowerment training for these victims.
According to Enriquez, the “sex-for-freedom scheme” has been a “common practice” among policemen but it has “worsened” under President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.
“We were very concerned that this would happen. Before [the Duterte administration], the question was kama o kulong. Now, the [policemen] are using drug charges to force women to have sex with them. It’s really appalling to us,” she said in a recent interview.
Catw-Ap has also objected to the term palit-puri, and would prefer to use palit-katawan to refer to this crime.
“We are changing the notion of rape as a crime against chastity,” Enriquez said.
Back in the news
Known in street lingo as “palit-puri” (sex in exchange for freedom), the scheme again landed in the news after a 15-year-old girl accused PO1 Eduardo Valencia of forcing her to have sex with him in exchange for setting her free.
After the police arrested her parents on drug charges on Oct. 25, the girl claimed she was also brought to the Sampaloc police station and threatened with drug charges.
Valencia was charged with rape in the Manila City Prosecutor’s Office three days later. He has denied the charges against him, claiming the teenager wanted to get back at him for arresting her parents.
According to Enriquez, the victims’ hands are tied in these situations especially since many of them are from poor families or work as prostitutes. They may also be drug users or have a relative who is a drug addict.
In the past, while women were afraid, they could still say no since the only repercussion they faced was temporary detention.
But with killings becoming rampant in the government’s war on drugs, potential victims have become more vulnerable, said Enriquez.
They now tend to give in more easily to demands for sexual favors, if only to ensure their safety or that of a family member.
“Their fear has intensified because now, death is a possibility. It’s worse because they [policemen] can kill you or your relatives,” she added.
The women in two cases documented by CATW-AP were both former prostituted women. One of them was married to a man who was arrested on trumped-up drug charges in Manila in 2016.
When the three policemen who caught her husband demanded P30,000 for his freedom, she could come up with only P17,000.
The lawmen came up with a proposition which she felt powerless to resist. She ended up being their sex slave for three days in a dingy motel in Carriedo.
Afterward, they gave her P100, set her free and then let her husband go home.
The other victim said that she had lost track of how many times she was picked up for vagrancy.
In exchange for being freed, she would agree to having sex with the policemen who arrested her until one of them infected her with the human immunodeficiency virus while another impregnated her.
Despite their ordeal, both women prefer not to file charges because the policemen concerned have “threatened to kill them, their family and friends.”
Reached for comment, Director Guillermo Eleazar, National Capital Region Police Office chief, said that while he welcomed any complaints about the palit-puri scheme, no one has come forward to file a complaint.
Police official’s appeal
While he understood their hesitancy to talk to lawmen, victims could come to him. “Their reports may not be used as evidence right now but at least we know who are the policemen we should monitor,” Eleazar said.
He added that they had set up hotlines which victims could call and their reports would be directly received by his office.
Eleazar stressed that internal cleansing of the police ranks was a priority and any information on errant lawmen would help his campaign a lot.
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