SC chief Puno admits legal bias vs women, kids

SC chief Puno admits legal bias vs women, kids
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno acknowledged the legal roadblocks faced by women and children who are victims of violence and abuse, as he slammed society’s “deep-rooted prejudices and bigotry” about gender and children issues.

In his keynote address at the multisectoral National Summit on Family Courts on Friday at the Manila Hotel, Puno urged the various government stakeholders to take a harsh look at the legal system.

For starters, he rued that while Republic Act No. 8369 creating family courts was passed back in 1997, such courts—specially designated to handle domestic violence, youthful offenders and other family cases—had yet to be fully regularized.

He also admitted that most people were not aware of the remedies and relief they could get from the family courts.

“More than a decade has passed since the creation of our family courts. It is high time to step back and see the areas of our previous concerns, where we have succeeded and see where we have failed,” Puno told summit participants who included prominent jurists and heads of agencies.

“They need judges, social workers, prosecutors, defense counsels and police officers who have greater sensitivity to the special status of [women and children]. Gender and children biases are deep-rooted prejudices and the bigotry against them will not dissolve easily,” he said.

Puno identified the legal roadblocks, namely, the lack of knowledge in legal procedure, lack of personnel who specialize in family courts, lack of judges to handle family cases, failure to prosecute cases, insensitivity of judges to women and children victims, and delays in the dispensation of justice.

Citing reports from the United Nations and the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women, he said cases of violence against women were “nothing less than alarming.”

In 2008, Puno noted, the number of cases reported to the police went up by 21 percent from the previous year. From 1999 to 2008, at least 67,436 violence against women cases were reported.

He also expressed alarm over the increase in the number of cases of child abuse and labor, child abandonment and neglect as well as youthful offenders.

Dona Z. Pazzibugan

Karen Ang

A plebeian who is trying to make small changes in this world.