(WARNING: This story has potentially upsetting content. Readers should exercise caution.)

Out of the total of 27 reported rape cases in Puerto Princesa from the start of the year to August, the majority of victims are minors, and the accused individuals who are either facing complaints or have been arrested are closely related to them.

In the report presented on Tuesday by Police Lieutenant Colonel Arvin Peniones, the head of the City Operations Management Unit of the Puerto Princesa City Police Office (PPCPO), from January 1 until August 28 of the current year, there have been a total of 79 instances or occurrences of index crimes.

From this sum, 27.34 percent constituted rape cases, resulting in a total of 27 documented occurrences. Subsequent to these instances of rape, there were 18 recorded cases of theft, followed by 15 instances of robbery, 9 incidents of physical injury, 6 occurrences of murder, 3 cases of homicide, and a solitary incident involving robbery coupled with homicide.

During the same period in 2022, the city recorded a total of 21 cases, and for the entire year, there were 30 cases.

Colonel Ronie Bacuel, the director of PPCPO, clarified that rape is not only a prevailing issue within the city but also a significant concern in Mimaropa provinces and other regions.

He explained that a variety of factors are playing a role in the rise of case numbers, and one of these is that victims or their families who were previously unable to decide to approach authorities and report incidents during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic are now pursuing justice.

Drawing from their experience, Bacuel noted that victims frequently delay informing their parents about incidents due to fear. This is particularly common when the victims are minors, as they worry about not being taken seriously due to the fact that the perpetrators are often close relatives.

The parents refrain from reporting to the police, he said, because of feelings of shame resulting from the potential scandal that the incident could bring to their family.

“When I was still the chief of the Regional Investigation Detective Management Division, Palawan and Oriental Mindoro—other provinces of Mimaropa, to include Puerto Princesa, yon talaga yong ang tawag natin ay most prevalent crime,” he said.

“Baka isipin natin, mataas ang crime na rape, anong ginagawa ng law enforcement? Maraming intervention ang ina-apply ng different provinces na applicable sa area nila. But doon sa intervention natin, kung masipag ang ating mga police community relations officers, ang ating mga personnel na magbahay bahay, magbarangay barangay, nagco-contribute ito sa pagtaas ng number,” added Bacuel.

He emphasized that the heightened police-community interactions in Puerto Princesa are building trust among victims and their parents, resulting in a notable rise in the volume of reported incidents.

In addition to law enforcement, non-governmental organizations are also playing a role in enhancing community awareness. They provide guidance to victims and their families regarding the necessary steps to pursue justice.

Police Lieutenant Colonel Alonso Tabi further clarified that the increase can also be attributed to the fact that the same suspects have committed multiple instances of rape.

“Mas mababa last year compared sa same period. Yong mga reported, matatagal na yong iba, and then na commit yong at ng hindi lang isang beses,” he said.

From their assessment, Tabi stated it is frequently seen that the stepfathers of the young victims are the ones responsible for the crime, often arising from family conflicts.

Children are also susceptible to becoming victims of their neighbors, who might lure them with gifts or offerings.

“Mas marami yong circumstances na stepfather nila na nahiwalay sa original na asawa, at nag-asawa ulit ngayon, so itong stepfather, yan yong laging suspect,” Tabi added.

He further mentioned that minors fall victim due to their involvement with older boyfriends, a situation that often leads to legal action taken by their parents.