Friday, August 01, 2008

A Champion in our Midst

This mother starts her day at the crack of dawn cleaning up around her home and quickly doing some laundry. Then she wakes up her two boys and the mother transforms into a figure reminiscent of a drill instructor running a marine boot camp as she herds her sons from their beds to the bathroom. In between occasional yells for Pol and Pat to pick up their speed, this drill instructor undergoes yet another transformation. This time, she becomes the harried cook busily banging pots and pans in the kitchen as her prepares her boys’ breakfast and lunchboxes.

After the boys are taken to school, this mother puts on her uniform and SPO2 Josefa Lacpao Lacandula, along with husband Luis, also a PNP member, starts yet another part of her day, this time, as Chief of the Women and Children Concerns Desk (WCCD) and the Family, Juvenile and Gender Sensitivity (FJGS) PNCO of Dumaguete City Police Station.

For the uninitiated, SPO2 Josefa Lacandula, or Jobie to her friends, is the lady police women and children ran to when they are in trouble. Battered wives, rape victims, and abused children all know her face. Every one of them would attest that behind that no-nonsense façade lies genuine kindness and warmth and a truly compassionate heart whose concern for each victim’s plight extends beyond the 8am to 5pm confines of her job.

This may come as a shock to some, but cyber sex operators have arrived in this genteel city. Four minor girls, who came to the city to work as house helpers, were induced with promises of easy money, to work as subjects in a cyber sex operation. They were made to perform unmentionable acts in front of a web camera and viewed by foreign clients via internet for a fee.

This was brought to the attention of the Police by an aunt who became suspicious of the inordinate amount of money in the girls’ possession vis-à-vis their supposed earnings as house helpers.

SPO2 Lacandula wasted no time acting on this information. She personally conducted surveillance operations night after night and purposely did not bring in male police personnel to avoid detection by the operators and the relatives surrounding them.

She did this at great peril to herself, and more often than not, used her own vehicle and spent personal money to expedite her operation. Her tireless efforts lead to the apprehension of the suspects and rescue of the victimized minors.

This praiseworthy accomplishment is only one of SPO2 Lacandula’s countless triumphs as a champion of women and children’s rights within the police force.

She also rescued five minors from the Cebu province who were brought over to Dumaguete City to work as commercial sex workers. After learning about these girls and how they have been living in the streets after they ran away from their abusive employer, she proceeded to search for them by conducting night patrols for fifteen straight nights until she found them. A mother at heart, she did not stop at mere rescue. She extended her efforts at rehabilitating these children by finding them sponsors who’d shoulder the cost of their education.

She did the same thing for countless street children, most of whom have fallen into the habit of sniffing dangerous substances. In her back-to-school program, she found funding for their return to their families and provided them with school supplies through a foreign sponsor so they could return to school.

She was also in the forefront of a buy-bust operation aimed at stopping the proliferation of pornographic lighters in the City. In a Frustrated Homicide case, her efforts led to the arrest of a suspect who viciously and repeatedly attacked and stabbed his wife in the presence of their two daughters. In another case, her immediate response also led to the quick arrest of the common law husband who stabbed the victim to death after she ended their relationship. The next case involved a French pedophile who victimized four minor Filipino boys. Finally, SPO2 Lacandula convinced witnesses to talk leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator, a family friend of the 10-year old child whom she robbed and strangled.

And as if her day is not busy enough, SPO2 Lacandula still finds time to conduct training seminars among student advocates, women groups, youth groups, and male advocates in the barangays and schools on laws protecting women and children. She also produced information materials pertaining to these same laws and distributed them to families, offices, schools, churches and other public places.

Her busy day does not end when the clock strikes five. Amidst her duties as wife and mother, and in between household chores and her children’s assignments and quizzes, SPO2 Lacandula still finds time to conduct frequent surprise visits to hotels, pension houses, motels, karaoke bars, internet cafés and other nightspots. This is in connection with the implementation of the Anti-Indecency Ordinance that aims to ensure that women, children and youth are protected from abuse.

SPO2 Lacandula’s unswerving commitment and dedication to her work, along with her exemplary and laudable accomplishments, did not go unnoticed. Chief of Police and her immediate supervisor Supt. LEOPOLDO ECHICA CABANAG recommended her for the nationwide search for the 2008 Country’s Outstanding Policemen in Service (COPS).

And indeed, the organizers know a good cop when they see one. SPO2 Josefa Lacpao Lacandula will be honored this month as one of the Philippines’ Top 10 awardees of the 2008 Country’s Outstanding Policemen in Service (COPS) award.
To Jobie, her family and the entire Dumaguete Police Force, our congratulations! Keep up the good work!

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