Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu. One of my yoga instructors recited this mantra with the class one recent morning. It translates as, “May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.”
This blog did not come to being because of a conscious plan to contribute to the happiness and freedom for all. It was more of a knee-jerk reaction to an event that occurred in the Philippines, exactly one year ago, January 22, 2014. On that day, a well-known and very visible Filipino comedian was severely beaten by a group of men, allegedly as a form of retribution for raping a woman, an allegation he denies, characterizing the beating as part of an extortion scheme. The event (the “Navarro Beating”) triggered a strong public reaction that sent ripples beyond the Pacific into the homes of Filipinos worldwide. I joined the discourse, initially, to indulge my personal desire to write and conduct legal analysis.
So much and so little can happen in the span of a year. But milestones provide excellent points of reflection and resolution. In a few weeks, on February 13, 2015, this blog will celebrate its one year anniversary. Looking back, I would like to think that my publications here have contributed, in some positive way, to someone’s life, if not the happiness and freedom for all. Although, in reading and thinking back, I realize that my writing has undoubtedly contributed to the severe negativity that is strongly attached to the legal cases that rose from the Navarro Beating. I now resolve to not allow myself to be drawn to and utilized in furtherance of that negativity.
Moving forward, I would like to pick-up from some tracks that have been laid. On a July 11, 2014 publication, I incorporated the view of the United Nations’ Committee on the Eradication of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 2010 regarding Karen Vertido’s 2007 Communication to them. I cited to that view because I thought that a portion of it is relevant to the rape cases that came to being following the Navarro Beating. That publication received a significant number of views, contributing to keeping Karen Vertido’s legacy active in the public’s consciousness.
In keeping with the mantra and my resolution above, I will be using this space to clarify the facts of the Karen Vertido’s rape case in greater detail, underscoring the significance of the United Nation’s CEDAW view to victims of rape or sexual violence in the Philippines who choose to invoke the courts’ power to provide remedy for their harm.
There is another reason why today stands out for me in a way that is related to this blog. Today is the 42nd anniversary of the landmark, United States Supreme Court case, Roe v. Wade. That case acknowledged a woman’s right to have an abortion as a constitutional right, a huge win for the feminist movement and women at large. There has been recent, significant efforts to gut Roe v. Wade by political and religious groups. The most recent is the D. C. lobbying for a bill that bans abortion, altogether, after the 20 week mark of pregnancy. The House of Representatives was supposed to vote on that bill last Wednesday but abandoned it due to women’s upheaval within the House. Instead, the House approved a bill today that denies the use of federal funds for abortions. I view that as a step back, against the interest of advocates for women’s rights and women’s health.
My yoga instructor above starts our practice by asking us to think of people in our lives that have inspired us or people in our lives that have made our lives difficult and asks us to dedicate that day’s practice to this person. I missed yoga this morning. But I would like to dedicate this blog, moving forward, to people who use their talent, skills, personal tragedy, and passion to effectively contribute in making positive changes in line with the interests of advocates for women’s rights and women’s health. I start by properly honoring Karen Vertido and the brilliant, women’s advocate, Atty. Evalyn Ursua.
Karen Vertido, in my view, is an inspiration. The way Karen Vertido handled her quest for legal remedy for her personal harm as a rape victim has led to bringing worldwide attention to a particular institutional issue that affects Filipinas. The outcome of her efforts, supported in no small part by Atty. Evalyn Ursua, is ultimately setting in motion an institutional evolution to better the plight of Filipinas within the Philippine justice system. Both Karen Vertido and Atty. Evalyn Ursua have made sacrifices and invested hard work for results that transcend their personal interests, laying down the foundation for the better treatment of the marginalized group of women in the Philippines, victims of rape and sexual assault seeking justice. We must respect, not diminish, their legacy.
Let’s start by establishing the facts and timeline of the Karen Vertido case.