“We hold the US-Aquino regime responsible for the wretched situation of Filipino women, for the plunder and destruction of our economy and natural resources and the massive attack on women’s economic and political rights and welfare. We deplore the poverty and the violence that we are being subjected to.” – Gabriela
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Filipino women have had enough.
Carrying banners to “Stop the rape of the motherland. Bangon, Sulong Kababaihan! Labanan ang tumitinding atake ng rehimeng US-Aquino sa buhay, kabuhayan at karapatan!” (Rise up, onwards women! Fight against the intensifying attacks of the US-Aquino regime on our lives, livelihood and rights!) thousands of women marched from the US Embassy to Liwasang Bonifacio to Chino Roces Bridge on March 8, international women’s day, renouncing the “fascist, bentador (one who sells out), and puppet to the US” president.
The group criticized Aquino for continuing to pursue a policy direction that largely favors the interests of foreign and local big businesses and multinationals and its propensity to attack the rights of poor Filipinos.
Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luz Ilagan cited the following:
-Aquino’s support for large-scale multinational mining including his consent to their use of paramilitary units to attack and displace indigenous communities in mining areas;
-Aquino’s disinterest in upholding our sovereign claim and territorial integrity that gave the Malaysian government the virtual go-signal to launch attacks on Filipinos in Sabah;
-The violent demolitions that are being conducted so that big businesses can pursue their interests in the guise of private public partnerships and;
The Aquino government’s abdication of its obligation to provide for basic social services evident in its budget cuts and the privatization of healthcare.
“Today, International Women’s Day, we demonstrate our outrage as well as our commitment to the struggle against the heightening oppression and exploitation that women experience as a result of US imperialist domination and the Philippine government’s subservience to its imperialist masters,” said Joms Salvador, secretary general of Gabriela Women’s Alliance.
Gabriela regional and provincial chapters also held protest actions and mobilizations in Baguio, Laguna, Batangas, Iloilo, Bacolod City, Davao City and other key cities and provinces all over the country.
Rape of sovereignty and patrimony
During the morning of March 8, Gabriela led more than a thousand women in a march to the US embassy to condemn the rape of the country’s sovereignty and patrimony by “US imperialism.”
They particularly demanded for the scrapping of the Visiting Forces Agreement and Mutual Defense Treaty. “Filipino women maintain that Aquino and Obama have agreed to maximize the MDT and VFA to turn our motherland into a virtual military base, prostitution den, and dumping ground for toxic wastes of the United States in violation of all our laws,” Salvador said.
The group also assailed the arrival of the USS Blue Ridge, the flagship vessel of the US 7th Fleet, which sailed in from Japan for a four-day visit with 1,100 officers and sailors.
“Women are leery of the sailors’ announced goodwill missions in communities and schools because these soldiers will likely leave a trail of prostituted women and children. And after leaving port, what secret missions in our waters will they be up to or what mishaps will they inflict this time?” said Salvador, citing what happened to the USS Guardian, which docked in Subic Bay last January for refueling and “rest and recreation” activities, and eventually destroyed a large part of the Tubbataha Reef in Palawan.
She slammed Aquino for not holding the US accountable for the destruction of the UNESCO-declared national heritage. Salvador chided the offer of the US to pay for the damaged corals. “Offering a measly compensation for the destruction of Tubbataha is not at all different from rapists offering payment to their victims to avoid their day in court,” Salvador explained.
The groups also slammed policies such as the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 that further opens the country to foreign exploitation.
Citing so-called ‘development projects’ being implemented by the government and multinational companies, Kakay Tolentino, secretary general of Katribu Partylist said, these projects result in death instead of livelihood for indigenous peoples.
“Laiban Dam, Sta. Clara Dam, San Roque dam, mining in the Cordilleras, in Palawan and in Mindanao have displaced indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands and have violated their right to self determination. The Aquino administration, on the other hand, in spite of its so-called ‘righteous path’ has further turned its back on the Filipino people and has even sold out Philippine lands for imperialist plunder,” Tolentino said in the protest action. She added that indigenous peoples have been killed protecting and fighting for their land.
“We have done everything to protect and defend our land. We renounce you Noynoy, for being the number one puppet of the imperialist!” Tolentino said.
Chairman of Gabriela and Gabriela Women’s Partylist Rep. Emmie De Jesus said the devastation on the lives of peoples in Mindanao caused by typhoon Pablo also revealed the plunder of the country’s natural resources. “The destruction that was brought about by massive mining and logging in Mindanao has made women and their children suffer from dire hunger,” De Jesus said adding that the organized retrieval of goods in the office of Department of Social Welfare and Development in Davao City is caused by appalling hunger.
‘Aquino’s record in upholding women’s rights is condemnable’
“Under President Aquino, the Philippines continues to be a very dangerous place for women, men as well as children, who seek that their basic rights to life, food, shelter and land be recognized. Aquino’s record in upholding women’s rights is condemnable,” said Ilagan.
Ilagan cited the killing of Barug Katawhan leader Cristina Jose last March 4 and the violent dispersal and arrest of Gabriela protesters last March 7.
“Women’s and human rights violations continue with impunity under Aquino. The Aquino government is vicious as it is murderous in its attack against women’s and people’s rights,” said De Jesus adding that there have been 18 women and four minors killed while there are 33 political prisoners languishing in jails under Aquino’s administration.
Cases of rape perpetrated by men in uniform such as the police, military or CAFGUs are also increasing. “These are men who supposedly protect the people. But they are the ones who violate women,” said Ilagan. Data from the Center for Women’s Resources shows that in 2012, there have been 12 documented cases of rape perpetrated by men from the ranks of the police, military or CAFGU, including the rape of two teenagers in Mankayan Benguet in February 2012.
Women also slammed the World Bank’s claim that the Philippines is now a rising tiger of Asia. “It is enraging to hear such claims when there are many more and an even increasing number of women and their children who still suffer from hunger,” De Jesus said.
Nenita Gonzaga of Kilusang Mayo Uno said, “What rising tiger are they saying? Utilities such as electricity remain to be expensive; Aquino has even let these corporations extract more money from us by letting Meralco charge the people bill deposits, systems losses, among others. It is clear that under Aquino, they make profits out of supposed services to the people.” Gonzaga also emphasized that the low wages of workers do not allow them to cope with the continuing increase in prices of basic commodities.
Dr. Genevieve Rivera, secretary general of Health Alliance of Democracy (Head) said that under Aquino, many more women and their children would die from giving birth and illnesses as government hospitals are being privatized.
“The saying, that ‘getting sick is prohibited’ because it is now becoming a reality. Aquino is abdicating its responsibility to the people as he let government hospitals be sold to private investors making health services farther from the people’s reach,” Rivera said.
Women from different sectors denounced Aquino for battering women. “Women are deprived of health services, basic utilities, livable salaries and gainful jobs and their rights are continuously being violated. These are forms of violence being inflicted on women that leave no physical mark,” said Salvador.
“President Aquino’s culpability in the worsening human rights situation in the Philippines is undeniable and we hold him responsible for the killings, tortures and arrests, as well as his government’s denial of basic human rights to food, shelter and healthcare in the country,” Ilagan said.
The women capped their protest with the burning of an enlarged wanted poster of “AquinObama” dubbing the tandem as the Filipino women’s most wanted for the rape of the motherland. The poster was torched by women leaders in Chino Roces Bridge.
“We hold the US-Aquino regime responsible for the wretched situation of Filipino women, for the plunder and destruction of our economy and natural resources and the massive attack on women’s economic and political rights and welfare. We deplore the poverty and the violence that we are being subjected to,” said Salvador
She added that Aquino and Obama are from different countries, have different appearances and different races but are one in their direction and that is the extreme abuse of women and the motherland.
“There is nothing that we can be proud of with the president we have. That is why we should renounce this president who does not serve the interests of women and the rest of the Filipino people but serves the interests of imperialists!” she added.