MANILA, Philippines – Mothers with black eyes, boys with belt marks, and girls with rape stories are the people who SPO3 Helen Lapay Dela Cruz calls her “bosses.” “Sa desk ko, kayo ang boss ko,” (In my desk, you [the complainants] are my boss), says the investigator.
But what’s remarkable about Helen is not her 15 years in uniform or her awards for good service. It’s not even the case she concluded in 5 days after a South African woman was raped in the San Juan City police station. What makes Helen different is empathy.
She was a victim of violence at the hands of her husband. Surviving the failed relationship is what makes her want to empower women to speak up and assert their rights.
“Siguro plano na talaga na magkahiwalay kami ng asawa ko, na maging single ulit ako para ma-fill ‘yung emptiness ko,” Helen says. (Maybe God planned for me to be separated from my husband so that I could be single again and fill the emptiness I have.)
Now she jokes that she is married to the job. “The women and children I work with are part of my life,” she says in Filipino.
Her advice to other women is, “Go out and complain.”
The 38-year-old works as an investigator at the Women and Children Protection Desk of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the National Capital Region (CIDG-NCR), the premier investigation arm of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Not afraid to make enemies
She knows she chose a dangerous job and said it was inevitable to come into conflict with the people she faces.
“This is not a simple job, this is risky. You are trying to put people in jail. You will have a lot of enemies. The people you file cases against will eventually become your enemies,” she said.
She admitted she feels afraid at times but said, “Even how difficult it is, someone has to do it.”
She considers public service to be in her blood. Her grandfather was a school teacher and her father worked for the Department of Public Works and Highways.
“Basta ang natatandaan ko sa parents ko ni-raise kami na hindi manlamang. ‘Yung hindi kami nanlalamang…huwag kaming mananakit. Dapat tumulong kami sa kapwa namin. Kung ano ang tama dun ka,” she said. (All that I can remember from the parents is that we were raised not to take advantage of others. We should not take advantage of them…do not hurt others. And that we should help them instead. Go for what is right.)
Still believes in prince charming
Growing up as the eldest of 6 kids, the proud Davaoeña learned how to take care of herself early on.
Although she considers herself independent by nature, she hasn’t ruled out finding her dream guy.
She told Rappler her prince charming should be intelligent. “Sexy kasi sa akin kapag matalino siya,” she said. (If he’s smart, he’s sexy to me.)
In the looks department, she just said she hoped for someone taller than she is. “Basta magmukha lang akong maliit,” she said. (I should look smaller [than him].)
But when asked where she sees herself in 10 years, she doesn’t say, “Settled down.” Instead she says, “I’m still in the PNP…until I retire I will be with PNP.”
“Ito na talaga ang buhay, nakita ko na ang sarili ko dito,” said the police woman. (This is really my life, I envisioned myself to be here.) – With reports from Matthew James F. Balicudiong/ Rappler.com