COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Hundreds of nurses have staged a protest in Cotabato City to seek justice for their colleague who was reportedly gang-raped on Saturday.
Workers from the Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO) Maguindanao, Notre Dame University students, and nurses from various government hospitals gathered at the city plaza to air their call.
Six people have been tagged by police in the rape of the 21-year-old victim, who works at the South Upi Maguindanao Municipal Health Office.
Police identified 5 of the suspects. They are Glen Saldua, Darwin Escalona, Jeffrey Fernandez, Ruscon Sanglao and Eugene Bescara.
Police Inspector Reny Valdesco, South Upi Maguindanao chief of police, said an initial investigation showed that the victim was abused after reportedly having a drinking spree with the 6 men.
The victim, who was found at a grassy lot 30 meters away from the South Upi Municipal Hospital, was also reportedly struck on the face with a piece of wood.
“Hubad, leeg may sugat siya, ang ngipin naputol, kasi pinalo ng kahoy,” Valdesco said.
He added that a slipper found at the crime scene belongs to Hernandez.
The suspects have denied the allegations and said they even helped the woman find the cellphone she lost inside the videoke bar where they stayed.
“Hindi kami ang nang-rape jan,” Saldua said.
The owner of the videoke bar, Reynalbert Insular, supported the suspects’ statements and claimed to know the people who were with the victim before the rape occurred.
He said the 6 helped him bring the victim to a hospital.
Police, however, believe that they have enough evidence to pin down the suspects, who are facing rape and frustrated murder charges.
Dr. Tahir Sulaik, director of IPHO Maguindanao, said the victim is still unconscious.
The victim’s family has also refused media interviews.
Notre Dame University president Fr. Eduardo Tanudtud called on more police officers to be deployed in the town.
South Upi Mayor Abdullah Campong has condemned the crime and ordered police to bring the perpetrators to justice.
He said a curfew must be enforced in the town and have videoke bars closed after 8 p.m. to prevent a similar incident in the future. - Archad Ayao and Jasper Acosta, ABS-CBN News Central Mindanao