CEBU, Philippines — Three women are proving that gender is not a barrier, as they rise through the ranks of what was once considered a profession exclusively for men.
The Philippine National Police, once called the Philippine Constabulary during the American regime in 1901, only had recruited males under the impression the men are stronger and much better in combat compared to females.
Over a hundred years later, women in the police service have become a common sight. Women now lead internal security operations, anti-illegal drug campaigns, and the overall flow of administrative work.
Police Colonel Royina Garma the director of Cebu City Police Office said she did not have it easy. A native of Davao City and standing 5’2” tall, she leads the 2,000 men of CCPO in operations, undaunted by the common perceptions of gender.
“We are not here to compete, but we will not stop until prejudices that men are better than women (end),” said Garma, the first-ever female city director since the PNP was established. She said she learned that people respect you if you show results.
But being a mother and policewoman at same time is a whole different story.
“Umuwi ako minsan sa bahay ko, tapos nakita ako ng anak ko ang sabi niya ‘oh, mommy, bakit nandito ka?’” she said.
Garma said she felt a pang in the heart whenever she recalls that scene. But she said she came to understand that, because of how frequently she was away from home, her daughter was surprised to see her.
“Sabi nga ng anak ko ‘Mommy hindi ako magpupulis’, ‘yun ang sabi niya kasi palagi akong wala eh,” Garma said.
She said that even if she is busy, she would still keep in touch to help her daughter with her homework.
“Kahit ang busy ko na, tumutulong pa rin ako sa assignments. ‘Mommy paano to’, sabi ko ‘Viber mo sa akin’, pagkatapos i-send ko sa kanya balik kapag may sagot na,” Garma said.
According to her, she has no regrets in entering the police service.
“Kahit na lang siguro ganito buhay ko, pero at least may impact ako na magawa para sa mas nakararami. Kaya nga sa mga magulang ayusin niyo mga anak ninyo,” she said.
Garma’s classmate from the PNP Academy Kapanalig Class 1997, Police Colonel Angela Rejano, the newly-installed director of the Siquijor Provincial Police Office is also the first female director to occupy her post. She said it goes to show that women are breaking glass barriers when it comes to the police service.
She said now that they have colonels in their class they are targeting to have a police general, the highest rank in the PNP.
“We are here to break glass ceilings, and aim to unify and improve in the direction that will benefit the people,” Rejano said.
PRO-7 director, Police Brigadier General Debold Sinas, said that they want to give the spotlight to the females. He said that as law enforcers, women have the advantage of being keen and detail-oriented.
“For PRO-7, it’s not only men. I do believe that women could also be good leaders and this is sample to show the people, sa mga police namo ug sa publiko sa Central Visayas that women could also be good commanders… When we say we empower our women, we really empower them by designating them into different positions of power and authority,” Sinas said.
To prove this, Sinas designated a Bohol-native Police Lieutenant Colonel Maribel B. Getigan as the first-ever female chief of police of the Danao City Police Station under the Cebu Police Provincial Office.
Getigan entered the police service in 1997 through a regular recruitment of the PNP in Davao City as a Police Officer 1. She later joined the PNP Academy Magilas Class 2000 and graduated with top honors.
Getigan made her mark as the leader of Regional Human Rights Affairs Office of PRO-7 where she was assigned for almost seven years. For her efforts, her office won as the Regional Best Human Rights office nationwide during 155th Police Service Anniversary at the National Headquarters in Camp Crame in 2017.
She also bested over 500 other examinees in the Police Executive Service Examination after finishing in the top five nationwide in 2018.
When asked about how she felt working in a male-dominated profession like law enforcement, she said: “Though dominated mi by men kay mabuhat sad sa babae kung unsay mabuhat sa lalake.”
Getigan said feels the pressure in her work when she also realized the burdens and expectations society places on women.
“Pressure sad in a way sad na dako ang role sa community. Dako baya ang panlantaw ang community sa mga babae especially sa panimalay. Dako ang role jud ang usa ka babae,” she said.
Getigan has been in the service for 21 years, aside from being a mother to three children and wife to Engr. Susano Getigan Jr., who encouraged her to pursue her police career.
She emphasized that women have a role not only in the community but also in the household.
“Motivation nako ang akong family since mao ni ang akong bread and butter. Though abroad man akong bana pero kailangan man gihapon ko motrabaho para maka-support sa pamilya kay kailangan man siya ug sustainability sa family,” she said.
She added young girls should never be afraid to aspire to be policewomen.
“Don’t think na ang law enforcement agency kay is for the male ra. The law enforcement agency needs female officers intended for women and children. Also, we need to have a female officer kay dako ang role sa usa ka babae kay mother man sad siya sa panimalay. Naa tay motherly affection. Ang mga anak kay they need guidance and words of wisdom,” she said. — Hanna D. Tejada, USC intern BRP (FREEMAN)