Slideshow: Women March Against VFA

Text and photos by Ayi Muallam and Ronalyn Olea /

“The condition of the Filipino women has gotten from bad to worse eight years after President Arroyo took over in Malacañang. President Arroyo’s government has spawned widespread misery, poverty, unbridled corruption, and violence against Filipino women, with her contemptuous servility to foreign interests and flagrant perpetuation of herself in power.”

This is the call of Gabriela Women’s Party, led by Representatives Liza Maza and Luz Ilagan, as they celebrate International Women’s Day, Sunday. The event also marks the 25th anniversary of Gabriela.

As early as 9 in the morning, a sea of pink and purple shirt-wearing women flood the streets of Welcome Rotonda. Thousands of rallyists from different organizations including Bayan Muna, Migrante International, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Ecumenical Women’s Forum, Anakpawis, and Concerned Artists of the Philippines, brave the extreme heat as they march to Mendiola in Manila — a few meters away from Malacanang.

At the foot of Chino Roces (formerly Mendiola) bridge, Gabriela holds a program, calling on the Arroyo administration for the immediate junking of RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement, which they describe as abusive to women and undermines the country’s sovereignty.

Protesters also call on Malacanang to address a wide range of women’s issues such as unfair labor policies, human rights violations, sexual and physical abuse, militarization in urban communities, among others.

According to Gabriela, the present administration’s labor export policies subject women overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to different types of sexual and physical abuses and exploitation. The group also criticized Arroyo for the lack of concrete and immediate measures to alleviate the poor conditions of women OFWs.

Gabriela also denounces the continued human rights violations against women. Of the 933 victims of extra-judicial killings recorded since 2001, 107 are women. There were 1,707 victims of illegal detention, 271 were women and 85 victims were children.

Human rights group Karapatan condemn the abduction, torture and murder of Rebelyn Pitao, a teacher in Davao City and daughter of Lencio Pitao, real name of New People’s Army (NPA) Commander Parago.

Joms Salvador, Gabriela spokesperson, salutes the Filipino women who fight foreign oppression. She highlights women’s role in the campaign for the removal of US military bases in 1991 and in the continuing fight against the VFA.

The program ends with colorful confetti, celebrating the Filipino women’s valiant struggle for national liberation and genuine democracy.

(Multimedia producer: Ayi Muallam)

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