In the end, it was the "protection and custody of the children" that drove Rachel "Che" Tiongson to file a formal complaint against Luis "Chavit" Singson, the man she lived with for 17 years and by whom she has five children.
Ten days after Singson beat her up in her Quezon City residence, Che accused Singson, President Gloria Arroyo's deputy national security adviser, of violating Republic Act 9262, or The Violence against Women and Children Act.
On September 2, with her legal counsel Aida D. Dizon, Che filed a civil case against Singson before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court.
As part of her evidence, she attached the medico-legal findings of Dr. Teresita R. Sanchez of the Cardinal Santos Hospital in San Juan, indicating that she sustained the following injuries: "soft tissue contusion with abrasion and swelling of the forehead; multiple soft tissue contusion of head; busted lips, left; abrasion on nasal area; multiple hematoma and soft tissue contusion on both hands and forearms; multiple soft tissue hematoma, contusions, abrasions secondary to mauling (domestic violence)."
The same document also logged the time of Che's physical checkup at 3:52 a.m. of August 23, or four hours after the beating took place.
Chavit Singson, for his part, has given television interviews where he admits to beating up Che and her male companion. Totally unrepentant, the public official says: "Mabait pa nga ako, hindi ko sila pinatay."
TORTURE AND TRAUMA. Che describes the approximately "40-minute" torture as "sobrang trauma."
In an interview with select media, including the Philippine Entertainment Portal's managing editor Karen Pagsolingan, last night, September 5, Che tells her story:
"Akala ko, yung sa pelikula lang yun nangyayari. Hindi ko talaga ma-imagine. Marami... Di ba yung mukha ko, may bugbog diyan [pointing to her forehead and eye area], pati yung ulo ko, may tama rin. Kasi kapag gumaganun ako, may tama dito. Eto, lahat ito [her hands and forearms], namaga. Kaya nga nung after nun, siyempre nung nandun ka pa, takot ka pa, right? Pero nung after nun, parang nagdidilim na paningin ko, kasi dun ko na naano yung pain."
She claims that her boyfriend, Richard S. Catral, a 38-year-old former marketing man for the ABS-CBN Foundation, was "blindfolded, tinali, binugbog, and tinorture" for two hours. "Kinuhanan pa ng picture 'tsaka 'pinakita sa mga kaibigan."
Aside from showing the picture of a tortured and naked Richard around, says Che, Singson would provide onlookers with a running commentary.
"Ang ginawa niya, yung picture, 'pinapakita niya sa mga friends. Sasabihin niya, 'O ganun-ganun.' Iyon ang hindi ko naiintindihan. 'Binugbog ko! Yun si Che? Wala na ngayon! Andun, nasa Gen San.'"
She does have a theory as to why her partner of 17 years has gone around spreading the story himself, complete with pictures.
"Ang tingin ko, kaya niya ginaganun, para ipaalam sa tao na pag may manligaw uli sa akin, you know, magka-boyfriend ako, mag-attempt, ganito'ng gagawin. So ginawa niya talagang sample itong isa. 'Tapos ako, binigyan rin siguro ako ng leksyon na para at least hindi ko na gagawin. Yun ang pagkaintindi ko nung time na iyon."
Then she started to worry about whether she would ever find a way out of this state of affairs.
"So ngayon, sabi ko, paano kung ayoko na talaga, 'tsaka paano kung wala na 'kong hinihingi na sa kanya. Eto, namumuhay ako nang tahimik sa Gen San, e, paano kung na-fall na naman ako ulit? Na-in love na naman ako ulit? Ibig sabihin hanggang dun, pag nalaman niya, gagawin na niya naman?
"Yun ang ibig kong sabihin. Gusto kong magkaroon kami ng maliwanag na usapan na idaan talaga sa ano, legality, na huwag na niya akong pakialaman. Kasi ang nakikita ko nga talaga, parang hindi nga siya ano sa akin, parang hindi maka-let go."
CHILDREN AFFECTED. The first four days after her beating were the most difficult, Che says. She was in pain, she was confused, she was traumatized. "Iiyak ako bigla," she says.
During the interview, whenever she referred to her wounds, her tears would well up. "What if hindi ako maka-survive? Kahit bugbog lang iyan, malay mo. O maging baldado ako? O putulan ako ng ano diyan? So yun yung kinakatakutan ko, parang wala akong peace of mind."
She says she would have filed a criminal case against Singson, but she did not, for the sake of their children, who are still in elementary and high school.
"Sila yung affected. Naaawa talaga ako sa kanila. Minsan nga parang gusto ko nang mag-give up... Naaawa ako sa mga bata. Pero sabi ko, nandiyan na kasi iyan, at saka ang finile ko naman, hindi naman ako nag-file ng criminal case."
But she still had to make the move to go to court, she says, because she feared another round of beatings. Earlier, on television, she had said that Singson used a horsewhip on her, the same one he uses to tame his famous caged tigers. He was also, she says, accompanied by his men who would later hold down, strip, and torture her male companion.
"Siyempre, nabugbog naman talaga niya ako, nasaktan niya ako. Ang akin lang, nagkaroon talaga kasi ako ng takot. Ang ano ko lang, at least, pagkatapos nito, merong ano na lalabas ako. Hindi ako napa-praning na baka mamaya meron na namang sumusunod. Kasi surveillance, e. Kahit wala na kami, sinu-surveillance pa."
According to her, Chavit actually said while he was torturing her, that he had long had her under surveillance. "Pati phone ko, naka-tap. Lahat, ganun—conversation, text messages, lahat."
In her affidavit, she stated that Singson had been "verbally abusive" and "physically abusive and with alarming frequency and regularity," and that she was now in "overwhelming fear for her life."
FIRST PHYSICAL ABUSE. She also reveals that this was not the first time Singson had been violent with her.
The veteran politician—who was a former Ilocos Sur governor and the man generally credited with bringing former President Joseph Estrada down—has a fearsome temper, says Che. He doesn't explode often, but when he does, she says there is no reasoning with him.
Eight years ago, she recalls, she confronted him about a woman that she had heard he was seeing.
"Nagalit ako sa kanya. Siguro very irritating sa kanya yung ano... 'tapos sinabihan ko siya na iwanan ko siya. Ginanun ko kasi siya. Nung sinabi ko sa kanya na iiwanan ko siya dahil dun sa nalaman ko, ayun na, pinagbuhatan niya ako," she says.
She did not file a complaint in any court nor did she have the incident recorded on any police blotter then, but she did secure a medical report.
"Sabi ko lang, mabuti na yung may record, kasi nag-iisip din ako. Paano in the future, di ba, mangyayari na naman, so at least meron akong ano na record, and may reason ako para makaalis na rin talaga."
Che says, almost matter-of-factly, that she has also had her share of verbal abuse. But she did not elaborate on this, except to say, "Pag may hinihingi ako sa kanya before, kailangan niya pa akong sigawan."