END OF BLAMING THE VICTIM. When victims are blamed and put on trial through publicity – their guilt is already presumed precisely because they were attacked – the reverse logic and wickedness of the culture of impunity manifests its insidious hold on the conscience of citizens. .
A distressing aftermath of the ambush of attorney Karen Q. Gonzales and her teenage son in Mandaue City on September 1, 2022 was online speculation about how the former’s professional and personal life sparked the attacks.
In a statement condemning the attacks on the mother and son, the Cebu Port Authority (CPA), whose business and marketing department was headed by Gonzales, urged citizens “not to share insensitive media messages regarding the incident or to disclose further personal information about the victims”. it may compromise their security and privacy,” the SunStar Cebu team of Laureen Mondoñedo-Ynot, Benjie B. Talisic and Honey I. Cotejo reported on Friday, September 2.
Online review of victims creates flashbacks to misogyny that surfaced after former Cebu City Deputy Attorney Mary Ann Castro was ambushed and killed by unidentified assailants on January 17, 2019 .
While both Castro and Gonzales are public figures in a sense – Gonzales is admired as an occasional actor portraying empathetic roles in independent films and Castro has been outspoken about controversies related to her – women are diminished by the online incivility to melodrama cartoons where women are mistaken for victims and victims are equated with helplessness and blame.
By examining victims as if they were somehow responsible for attracting violence and deflecting the call for justice and accountability from perpetrators, online incivility in crimes involving women is endemic in the network that promotes the culture of impunity.
According to Ifex, a global organization of more than 100 non-governmental organizations promoting freedom of expression and access to information, impunity means that an act detrimental to the life, rights rights and freedom of a person has no consequences for the perpetrator, but only for the victim and society.
In the culture of impunity, this lack of consequences and accountability for perpetrators has a chilling effect on citizens, especially victims and people made vulnerable by their beliefs, advocacy, and associations with the powerless and marginalized. .
A culture of impunity exposes citizens to the constant threat of being punished for expressing views contrary to those of the powerful or for exercising their professional and civic responsibilities.
Constraints snowball from self-censorship to paranoia and distrust of social institutions meant to stabilize society through the rule of law, social justice and the defense of civil liberties.
The September 2 SunStar Cebu report cited the Integrated Bar Association of the Philippines (IBP) Cebu City Chapter’s statement on the ambush of attorney Gonzales and his son that 14 attorneys have been killed in Cebu since 2004.
Many victims “have yet to receive the justice they had studied and served in their lifetime,” an IBP Cebu City spokesperson said.
In a March 15, 2021 article by Carlos H. Conde, Human Rights Watch (HRW) cited data compiled by the Rappler news site that 110 lawyers have been killed from 1972 to 2021, including 61 since 2016, when which President Rodrigo Duterte began his administration.
Since 2004, charges have only been filed in seven cases where the victim was a lawyer. This trend shows that there is “a lack of accountability for serious crimes in the Philippines”, said HRW.
Despite the tentacles of “fear, apathy and suspicion” that paralyze a public that has become cynical in the face of threats, attacks and murders perpetrated with impunity against lawyers, journalists, activists, indigenous peoples and other vulnerable groups , Ifex asserts that “no culture of impunity is invincible, however entrenched it may be.
Citizens can start by calling for insensitive and uncivil online discussions blaming victims of violence and pressuring authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice.