PCOO-attached office joins drive to end violence vs. women

MANILAThe News and Information Bureau (NIB), an attached office under the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), on Thursday joined the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) in its push to promote awareness on violence against women with the screening of the Cinemalaya film Bagahe.

The screening of the multi-awarded indie film, written and directed by Zig Dulay, is part of the 18-Day Campaign to End Violence Against Women (VAW), which is observed annually from November 25 to December 12 to raise awareness among all stakeholders that VAW is a public issue of national concern.

Film showing is one of the recommended activities for the campaign, using it as a springboard for discussion and a venue for discussing VAW and the experiences of VAW victim-survivors.

The film revolves around the lead character Mercy Abunag, an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) who had just returned to the country.

But instead of fulfilling her dream of a better life, Mercy went home carrying an excess baggagea babythat she tried to get rid of to spare herself and her family from embarrassment.

As the whole family celebrates her homecoming, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents appear at the doorstep, inviting Mercy for some questioning about a newborn child abandoned in the trash bin of an airplane toilet.

The film follows the poignant experience of Mercy, who was passed from one government office to another as she grapples with the trauma of being sexually abused and getting impregnated by her employer, and then sent home without getting justice.

Dulay said "Bagahe" was not just about Mercy, but more on how various government agencies and social institutionslaw enforcement, social services, media, politicians and even the churchinteract in cases like that of Mercy's.

Walang kontrabida dito (There are no bad guys here), just following the process from start to finish, Dulay said after the film screening.

It's just that pagdating sa mga government agencies and institutions na dinaanan n'ya, kailangang gawin nila yung mandate, kailangang gawin nila yung trabaho nila (It's just that the various government agencies and institutions that she interacted with had to comply with their mandates, do their jobs), he added.

Indeed, Mercy's interactions with various institutions seemed to make her a victim twice over.

Like in her dealings with the law enforcers, the NBI agents knew she was a victim of circumstance, but they also see her as a criminal who abandoned her newborn baby.

There was also the scene with the social worker who told Mercy that they are all bound by rules after the latter threw a tantrum out of frustration.

May mga times na gustung-gustong nilang ipakita na naiintindihan nila ung subject, pero walang magagawa kasi may mga rules at patakaran na sinusunod (There are times that they wanted to show that they understood the plight of the subject, but they cannot do anything because there are rules and guidelines to be followed), Dulay said.

Kahit na nakikisimpatiya sila, may nagawa pa ring kasalanan (Even if they sympathize, she still committed a crime), Dulay said.

Mercy also did not escape public scrutiny, one that was mainly fed not only by mainstream media but also by social media.

She was also approached by a senator who earned her trust and made her talk about her whole ordeal, only to see the politician bare it to media not long after.

In the end, Mercy was forgiven by her husband and accepted by her family.

The last scene is of Mercy finally getting to see her baby, get to breastfeed her, and pondering the great unknowns that lies ahead.

Dulay said the film was based on actual cases of newborn babies abandoned by OFWs at the airport.

He said the film lets viewers examine not only Mercy's actions, but also lets them examine how various government entities deal with victims of sexual abuse like Mercy.

Meanwhile, NIB Director Virginia Arcilla Agtay said she hopes that agency employees learned some lessons from watching the film, especially the women.

There are times in our lives that we we're abused, not necessarily physical abuse. It could be psychological abuse that happened in the house, in the market, in public transport and in the office, she said.

I hope na once in while nagkakaroon tayo ng bonding, at the same time ay nagiging mulat tayo sa social issues, sa mga nangyayayri sa ating lipunan (I hope that we get some bonding time once in a while, and at the same time, become aware of the social issues, of the events that happen in our society), Agtay said. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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