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To Chavit Singson, there is no excuse for violence

>> Monday, September 7, 2009

MANILA - Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chair Leila de Lima on Saturday assailed deputy National Security Adviser Luis Singson for his "arrogance" and urged his common-law wife Rachel 'Che' Tiongson to file a human rights complaint.

In an interview with ABS-CBN News, de Lima lamented Singson's statement in media interviews, including with dzMM and ABS-CBN News, that Tiongson and her boyfriend should be thankful he did not kill them for their affair.

"As a government official, he [Singson] is covered by the Code of Conduct of public officials. Kaya tamang pinagsabihan siya ng Palasyo, especially since he holds a public position. He is a powerful man and hindi dapat ganyan, fino-flaunt yung power. To me, there's arrogance there," de Lima said, when asked to comment on the incident involving Singson and his wife.

Tiongson and her boyfriend suffered physical beatings allegedly at the hands of Singson or his bodyguards after he found them together in an apartment last August 22.

Tiongson was allegedly beaten and lashed with a whip that Singson uses to discipline his pet tiger. Her boyfriend was also allegedly beaten up, forcibly undressed, and tortured.

Under Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Ethics for Government Officials and Employees, public servants are supposed to respect human rights and to act with "justness."

A provision in RA 6713 states: "(c) Justness and sincerity - Public officials and employees shall remain true to the people at all times. They must act with justness and sincerity and shall not discriminate against anyone, especially the poor and the underprivileged. They shall at all times respect the rights of others, and shall refrain from doing acts contrary to law, good morals, good customs, public policy, public order, public safety and public interest...."

Administrative sanctions

De Lima said the fact that Singson is a high-ranking official of the National Security Council "makes it more imperative na kailangan malaman talaga kung ano ang kanyang pananagutan diyan."

"To me, all the more that it should be deplorable because he's a powerful man, and hindi puwede yung ganun-ganun lang. And then you know, totoo ba yun? Na when he was interviewed, he even said, 'Buti nga hindi ko pinatay.' The mentality is there is alarming," she said.

De Lima said Singson could face administrative sanctions for violation of the Code of Ethics.

"We can recommend or not for possible prosecution and other sanctions like administrative," she added.

De Lima also encouraged Tiongson to file a human rights complaint before the CHR for violation of the Law Against Violence Against Women and Children.

Even if Tiongson has filed a separate complaint before the Quezon City trial court against Singson, de Lima said the filing another one before the CHR is still allowed.

Violence against Women

"Nasa mandate din namin yan, to look into cases of violations of women's rights, particularly violations under the Law Against Violence Against Women and Children. And lalu na, it's particularly more compelling now that we have a Magna Carta of Women," she said.

Under the Magna Carta of Women, de Lima said the "CHR has been designated as the gender and development Ombudsman, with jurisdiction to investigate or look into human rights violation of women, especially issues of discrimination."

Based on media interviews given by Tiongson, de Lima said it would appear that her rights as a wife were violated.

"She's a battered wife. And violence really against women should not be tolerated by a civilized society," she said.

In case Tiongson files a case, de Lima said this would fall under "human rights violations of a woman, and the larger picture of violence against women.

"You know, wife battering, battering of wives, battering of common-law wives. When you say wives, either legal or common-law. Battering of women, it has to stop. Kasi, I think laganap pa rin yan sa Pilipinas. Marami lang hindi nagsusumbong for the sake of the family, for the sake of the children. But that is totally deplorable, that is inexcusable," de Lima said.

Torture vs boyfriend

De Lima said the CHR may also look into the reports of torture committed against Tiongson's alleged boyfriend, Richard Catral.

"Isa pa yon. Lalu na kung totoo yun na tinorture. Again, torture or infliction of physical harm is not justified and is a basis for a complaint. It's an actionable wrong," she said.

De Lima said Singson would be entitled to due process.

On Friday, the Office of the President on Friday advised Singson to "behave accordingly as an upright citizen and submit himself to due process of the law."

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said he was not aware if President Arroyo's deputy national security adviser used government resources to spy on Tiongson.

Singson is considered one of the most influential politicians in the country. His testimony in the impeachment trial of President Joseph Estrada in 2000 led to the fall of the Estrada administration and the rise to power of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in January 2001.

Singson virtually admitted on Wednesday over dzMM that he beat up his wife last month after discovering she had an affair, and added she should be thankful he didn't kill her.

Bruised face and arms

In an exclusive interview with ABS-CBN's Ces Oreña Drilon, Tiongson showed pictures of her badly-bruised face and arms allegedly caused by the beatings she suffered at the hands of Singson last August 22 after he found her with her boyfriend in her apartment.

She said Singson beat her up and even lashed her using the whip he uses to discipline his pet tiger.

Singson and his bodyguards also allegedly undressed Tiongson's boyfriend, took pictures of his penis, beat him up, and tortured him.

Tiongson also revealed that Singson's treatment of her even before the beating made her look down on herself. "I really felt I wasn't a wife anymore. Like I was just a servant. If he gave me money, he would ask for receipts so he would know where the money went. I used to be the wife and then he was just discarding me," she said.

A Quezon City trial court has granted Tiongson's request for a protection order against Singson, which means he should not go near his wife.

Remonde said Malacañang's actions on Singson will "depend on the outcome of the case."

Attempted homicide?

On Friday, in an interview over Umagang Kay Ganda (UKG), Singson said he never admitted that he beat up his wife, although he said she did get hurt.

Singson reiterated his earlier statement that Tiongson, with whom he has five children, should be thankful she's alive.

Singson said he has already received a subpoena after Tiongson sued him for violating Republic Act 9262 or the Violence Against Women and Children Act of 2004. The two are scheduled to appear before a local court on September 8.

Still, he said he is already severing his ties with Tiongson. "Again, good luck. Wala na akong pakialam sa iyo," he said.

Family law expert Katrina Legarda, meanwhile, said Tiongson has a strong case against Singson if she will use Republic Act 9262 or the Violence Against Women and Children Act of 2004. She said Tiongson has to choose whether to file a complaint of physical injury, attempted homicide or attempted murder. If found guilty, Singson could face up to 20 years in jail for attempted homicide or attempted murder. [ABS-CBN]

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