Editorial: Christmas Day tragedy in Naga

Heronia Mata, a teacher, could have thought that she was safe inside the Naga City police’s Women and Children’s Protection Desk (WCPD) in southern Cebu while narrating the alleged abuse she had received from her husband, police officer Fernando Mata.

It was not the case though. The 35-year-old police officer was reportedly drunk when he went to the WCPD office on the second floor and shot Heronia, 39, at least four times using his government-issued firearm. Heronia did not survive, putting her family and two young daughters in a state of disbelief and despair.

Fernando, a patrol car driver at the Naga City Police Station, spared the WCPD investigator who was getting the statement of Heronia.

The tragic incident happened on a day when Christian families traditionally bond—Christmas Day.

If Heronia’s accusation against Fernando of him being physically abusive towards her was true, then the case — even before her murder — would have been considered domestic violence.

The case involving the Mata couple is not a rare one. In the Philippines and in other parts of the world, domestic violence is a cancer, a destroyer of families.

According to the 2022 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), some 47,000 women and girls worldwide were killed by their intimate partners or other family members in 2020. This means that, on average, a woman or girl is killed by someone in her own family every 11 minutes.

“The killing of women and girls at the hands of intimate partners or other family members – people whom they would normally be expected to trust – represents one of the most extreme manifestations of gender-based violence. Such killings are often the culmination of prior experiences of gender-based violence, which can include psychological, sexual and physical abuse,” the UNODC reported.

Victims of gender-based violence are encouraged to report their abusive partners and bring them to justice.

Heronia did the right thing in reporting the alleged mistreatment from her husband.

Women who are on the receiving end of all forms of abuse must not hide in silence.

Neighbors who know that their female neighbors are being abused must also play their part by informing authorities. Turning a blind eye to any wrongdoing may lead to bigger problems.

As for Heronia’s killing, her death could have been prevented had her husband not been allowed to enter the police station as he was reportedly drunk. Are drunken off-duty police officers allowed to walk inside police stations just because they are assigned there?

Heronia went to the police station to lodge a complaint against her husband, and it was reportedly the first time she did so. The off-duty police officer later followed his wife to the police station and he was reportedly carrying his government-issued firearm.

The WCPD could have informed the desk officer that Fernando’s wife was in its office filing a complaint against him. It could have instructed the desk officer that if ever Fernando arrives, he should not be allowed entry to the police station. Or the desk officer could have at least told him to leave his firearm at the reception desk.

The incident in Naga City Police Station should also prompt the Philippine National Police to review its policy on off-duty police officers carrying government-issued firearms.