Leaders and members of the World March of Women-Pilipinas, a network of organizations of women from the basic sectors and with different advocacies, kicked off the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, November 24, through a press conference followed by drums and protest performance at the Quezon City Memorial Circle. The 18 days of activism is a yearly international campaign from November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, through December 10, Human Rights Day up to December 12 in the Philippines, Anti-Trafficking Day.
In the press conference, leaders of WMW-Pilipinas called for the Duterte administration’s accountability in violence against women that has only worsened owing to “the president’s misogynistic pronouncements and policies that had emboldened all forms of violence against women.” They particularly called attention to the fact that the culture of violence in the country had deepened and became more pervasive in online social media and other digital platforms.
“Violence against women (VAW) continues to rise in the online space. Women human rights defenders, activists, journalists, and those who are vocal in their dissent against the government and certain political figures are often targeted. They are red-tagged, thus putting their lives, and sometimes even those of their families’, at risk. This has to stop! We call on the state, as the primary duty bearer in protecting the human rights of all, to ensure the safe participation of women and girls offline and online, and to put a stop to the attacks on women,” said Lisa Garcia, executive director of the Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA).
Jean Enriquez, National Coordinator of World March of Women – Pilipinas and Executive Director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women – Asia Pacific (CATW-AP), cited the arrest on Nov. 14 of Ma.Salome Crisostomo Ujano, “a sister anti-trafficking advocate,” according to Enriquez, and the continued detention of Sen. Leila de Lima as well as the harassment of women’s rights defenders in the rural areas as clear cases of violence against women under the Duterte administration. “These, on top of 503 cases of online prostitution we have documented from June to October of 2021. From ten cases in a month, we are now managing eighty (80) new cases each month because of the oppression, hunger and culture of gender-based violence under this regime,” said Enriquez.
“A glaring feature of the Duterte regime is the pervasive Violence Against Women beginning from the period of his presidential candidacy manifested in his notorious ‘rape joke’. Throughout his administration, the abuse and total disrespect of women persisted in countless words and deeds covered by media that bred a culture of impunity alongside the senseless killings of so-called drug addicts, further victimizing thousands of women who became widows and orphaned children. This is intolerable and must end. Duterte and his cohorts must answer for all their crimes against women, and the rest of the Filipino people,” added Ana Maria Nemenzo, head of WomanHealth Philippines.
Violence in the form of exacerbated poverty was also experienced in the countryside even as the destruction of the environment and land use conversion proceeded unchecked, affecting women from the agricultural sector as well indigenous women. Rural and IP women’s lives are continually under threat as they defend their lands and livelihoods.
According to Amparo Miciano, Secretariat Chair, of the Pambansang Koalisyon ng mga Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK): “Ang mga kababaihan sa kanayunan ay patuloy na nakakaranas ng iba’t ibang uri ng karahasan mula sa administrasyong Duterte. Ang mga kababaihang magsasaka at mangingisda ang higit na apektado ng malalim na kahirapan dulot ng mga polisiyang nagbubukas sa mga imported na produktong pagkain, pagkasira sa kalikasan at lupang agrikultural dahil sa pagmimina, maruming enerhiya, pagtataboy sa mga mangingisda mula sa katubigang munisipal, at marami pang kawalan ng proteksyon sa mga kalamidad. Tinutulak ng ganitong kahirapan ang maraming kababaihan na pumasok sa mga trabahong nilalagay sila sa bulnerable sitwasyon. Sa halip na kalinga, pagmumura, pambabastos at karahasan at korupsyon sa gitna ng pandemiya ang nakuha sa administrasyong ito. Kayat kailangan ang patuloy na pag-oorganisa at pagkilos upang hindi na manatili ang patuloy na paglabag sa ating karapatan at dignidad.”
Said Jayneca Reyes, media and networking staff of LILAK, “Indigenous women have stood against all forms of violence perpetrated by the Duterte administration. The intensification of twisted and capitalistic development policies has uprooted indigenous women and their families, denied them of their ancestral land that connects them with food, water, medicine, livelihood, and their identity. While they defend their rights, the government vilifies them, silences them, red-tags, threatens, and kills them. The state neglects their basic needs, while corruption is committed and condoned all in a time of pandemic and hunger. Indigenous women demand a new government, one that is not founded on impunity and violence, but one that recognizes and respects the role of indigenous women in building nurturing, just, and sustainable societies.”
Filipino women toiling abroad has not been exempt from this violence under the current administration. The brazen sexual acts and innuendos of President Duterte further encouraged abuse against women OFWs instead of working to protect them. “Ang mga babaeng OFWs na karamiha’y domestic workers, marami ang naaabuso at tuwina’y at risk dahil bulnerable ang trabaho. Kaya’t ang presidenteng pinagmamalaking minolestiya niya ang kanilang kasambahay ay sampal sa kanilang pagsasakripisyong maitawid ang kanilang pamilya gayundin sa ating nagtutulak ng disenteng trabaho at dignidad para sa kanila at sa lahat,” lamented Ellene Sana, executive director of Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA).
World March of Women – Pilipinas will continue to resist government policies and actions that contribute to the worsening situation of women. They also see the 2022 elections as a way of demanding for accountability and ending the Duterte government’s rein to usher in a political leadership that will uphold women’s rights as well as act towards ending violence against women.
“Since 2016, women’s human rights groups have endlessly demanded the Duterte administration for change – change from how he disrespects women’s rights, from how he treats us as subject of sexist jokes and misogynistic remarks. Since 2016, we have called for all of these to end. Women are important actors in our society who deserve utmost respect, especially from the highest office of the land. We continue to demand accountability from the Duterte administration! For all the acts of discrimination and sexual violence committed by this regime, Duterte should be held accountable under the Magna Carta of Women and the Safe Spaces Act. Until this happens, we will continue to resist,” asserted Jelen Paclarin, head of Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau (WLB).
“As the campaign season starts, many trapos will offer once again sweets words and empty promises. However, we should remain firm, choosing only those that respect human rights, are accountable to ordinary citizens, have no taint of corruption, and possess the political will to pursue the wealthy who violate our laws with impunity. Most importantly, the candidate we support should wholeheartedly forward the interests of women towards ending all forms of violence – such as by pushing for the ratification of ILO C190 that aims to eliminate violence in the world of work,” said Joanna Coronacion, chair of the Women’s Committee of the labor group Sentro ng Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO), and its Deputy Secretary General.
“Duterte had no clear plans when he sat as President,” said Judy Miranda, Secretary General of Partido Manggagawa. “Dinaan sya sa pakwela, pagmamaliit at panghaharass sa kababaihan ang kanyang pamumuno. Pinalala pa nya ang kalagayan ng manggagawa at maralita ngayong pandemya dahil sa katiwalian at kapabayaan. Hindi natin dapat payagang maulit ang ganitong pamumuno sa ating bayan. Labanan natin ang lahat ng pagsusumikap ng mga tiwali at magnanakaw na makabalik sa pwesto,” said Miranda. She ended by saying that the future is in our hands and enjoined women to fight.