Abra has the lowest number of rape cases in the region, according to the Cordillera police.
This may be because rape cases are settled not in court, but in the community or through amicable settlement, Police Chief Insp. Marcy Maron of Abra Women and Children’s Desk said.
"May mga cases na kapag dumaan na sa barangay di na nila dinadaan sa pulis, iyon siguro ang reason kung bakit mas mababa ngayon aside from ayaw ng ilang victim na mag-report,” Maron said.
In Abra towns, the council of elders plays an important role in resolving civil cases such as physical injuries, land disputes and others.
Each tribe has a council or the "Mamanaken or Lallakay System of Governance.”
Residents of Boliney town said the family of young rape victims would call the elders to resolve the case.
The elders will penalize the offender using money, animals or tracts of land. The minimum penalty would be P200,000 to P250,000.
If found guilty, the offender is required to butcher a pig, cow or carabao and will be partaken by the whole community who witnessed the judgment of the case.
After the settlement, no counseling is offered to rape victims.
According to the Department of Social Welfare and Development-Cordillera, cases of child rape will have a negative impact on the victims' mental and emotional health if not given proper psychological treatment.
The state recognizes the customary laws of the indigenous people, but it has its limitations.
"Iyong Revised Penal Code, ito na iyong nagde-define ng crimes natin. Murder, rape and other heinous crimes and drug-related crimes cannot be (the) subject of settlement under customary law,” said lawyer Edgar Avila, former dean of Saint Louis University School of Law.
The elders in Boliney said the case can still be brought to court depending on the decision of the victim or parents.
Some children and women’s rights advocates in Boliney are now creating forums and seminars to reiterate to the community the proper way to handle such sensitive cases.