THE regional office of the Ombudsman opened its gender information desk (GID) on Thursday, November 24, to address the growing problem of gender-sensitive cases like Violence against Women and their Children (VAWC) in Northern Mindanao.

The Regional Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (Riacat-VAWC) has tallied a total of 383 VAWC cases in the first quarter for 2016. In addition, Police Chief Inspector Gwendolyn Cinco of the Philippine National Police (PNP)-Regional Office Northern Mindanao said that of the total cases, there were 14 filed cases that involved violence against children and 23 involved violence against women. Other cases involved trafficking, marital rape, child labor, and child pornography.

"Unlike other crimes, these involve abuse within closed doors. Some women do not even want to divulge the abuse that they are going through because of shame or fear. However, with our GID, they will have a place to pour their hearts out," said Assistant Ombudsman, lawyer Jennifer Jardin-Manalili, chairperson of the gender and development executive committee.

Manalili discussed that women, children, or anyone who is experiencing gender-related abuse can go to their office and report their situation.

However, unlike the women's desk in regular police stations, their GID, Manalili said, will collaborate with more organizations to intervene in the complainant's case. These partners may include the local police, non-government organizations, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and legal councilors.

The GID also includes a kid's corner focused on providing a space where abused children or those of abused women can play.

With the creation of this desk, the office can assist even complainants of private individuals or entities with VAWC cases. Assistance can extend up to endorsement of complaints to appropriate courts or tribunals.

"Although, when you say 'the Ombudsman' it will always occur to you that we are all about investigation most especially to public officers or employees. However, with this, we want to achieve a wider kind of public service," said Rodolfo Elman, Deputy Ombudsman for Mindanao.