By Ali G. Macabalang
The wife of a town mayor in Lanao del Norte has drawn flaks, including a legal suit, for her marauding acts shown in at least two video clips that went viral in the social media.
Virginia Yap was shown in one of the videos mauling a defenseless and trying to forcibly open the door of a vehicle ferrying a lawyer on July 15 in Lala town, the turf of her husband Mayor Angel Yap.
Yap repeatedly whipped the man in the head and upper body with a stick and punched him in the abdomen while uttering invectives. The victim even shielded the door of the car with his body as the Yap continued unleashing fury in the presence of a police officer and some males believed to be escorts of the town first lady.
In the second video, Yap was shown attacking another vehicle, squeezing the face of a woman in another incident, which sources said was one of earlier assaults of the first lady on individuals trying to help farmers tangled in a land dispute with her family.
On Saturday, July 17, Maranao lawyer Saidamen Mamle Barrat posted a statement in the social media, saying the mauling victim was his brother serving as his driver at the time of the latest assault.
“I did not expect that the incident involving my brother and Mrs. Yap would blow out of proportion by the posting of a video of said incident on social media. As a lawyer who believes that there is a proper forum before which we can elevate the matter, I did not intend to make the incident public — especially because I do not want it to be highlighted more than the plight of the farmers,” Barrat said.
Barrat was referring to farmers who earlier obtained a favorable decision from the Department of Agrarian Reform’s Adjudication Board (DARAB) “with finality” and a writ of execution” in a land dispute between them and Mrs. Yap.
The farmers were assisted by another lawyer during the pendency of the agrarian case.
Barrat said when the DARAB issued a writ of execution for the reinstatement of the farmers to and the maintenance of their possession of the disputed land, the farmer sought his services because they wanted the legal decision to be duly enforced amid alleged resistance by Yap’s family.
He said the farmers engaged his service when they were confused on “why the DARAB sheriff set a ‘pre-conference’ instead of simply enforcing the decision.”
“Mrs. Yap’s unruly behavior towards me and her violent acts against my brother emanated from my presence during the supposed ‘pre-conference’, which she did not like, and which, I presume, (enabled) the farmers to insist on their rights as embodied in the decision,” Barrat said.
He added: “As a lawyer, my profession is (for) public interest. And, while I recognize the dangers that come with it, it is unfortunate that the incident between my brother and Mrs. Yap happened in the presence of police officers, who failed to prevent what could have been controllable violence.”
Barrat said “legal actions against Mrs. Yap and others have already been made.”
Emotion-charged social media users, including individuals, demanded a “tooth-for-tooth” action, saying prosecuting and jailing Yap should follow a similar public shame. Others invoked similar physical or fatal acts on Yap.
Dr. Jun Alonto-Datu Ramos, spokesman of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), deplored Yap and the police officers for acting above the law and neglect of deuty in protecting innocent civilians, respectively
“It was shocking to watch this video of a woman repeatedly hitting a man, who turns out to be the brother of a Muslim lawyer who just won a case for the poor farmers against powerful people in Lanao del Norte,” Datu Ramos said in a post on Friday.
Yap “kept on physically abusing (the man) while the cops just stood back and allowed her to continue assaulting,” Dr. Datu Ramos said, adding that “a public apology” from Yap and her escorts should not suffice.
The female attacker “has no right to hit anyone, more so since she is related to a public official, and the abused man had not done anything to her or her family,” he said.
“I admire how much self-restraint was shown by the brother. An apology will not be enough to make amends. How can the people trust leaders who allow their spouses to abuse the public without regard for human rights? Money certainly cannot buy breeding,” Datu Ramos said.
National and local media could not reach the Yap family for reaction, even as rumors have it that Maranao political allies of the Yap family may be instigating an amicable settlement with monetary fine.
Sources said the Yap family is a political ally of the ruling Dimaporo clan in Lanao del Norte, notably Governor Imelda Dimaporo, husband and son Congressmen Abdullah and Khalid, respectively. (AGM)