“Majority of Filipino women have no food, no sustainable jobs, no affordable health care, education, housing and other social services. Women are poorer and hungrier under the administration of President Aquino.” – Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luz Ilagan
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — Women’s groups announced the final details of the second leg of One Billion Rising for Justice in a press conference at St. Scholastica’s College on Feb. 5.
“This year, Gabriela sustains its call to rise against poverty and violence, and elevates the call for justice for all victims of the Philippine government’s utter disregard for the people’s welfare and rights. Particularly to be highlighted is the call for justice of women and their families who have been victims of the superstorm Yolanda and of the Aquino government’s criminal neglect,” women’s group Gabriela said in a statement.
One Billion Rising is a global movement to end violence against women. It was first held on Feb. 14, 2013. But after the event, Monique Wilson, director of One Billion Rising, said in a previous media briefing that there is a need to go deeper and bolder in the issues confronting women.
“Otherwise, we’re just paying lip service. That’s just saying, ‘okay let’s end violence against women and girls.’ But how? That’s what we mean by justice,” Wilson said.
This year, a protest action would be held on Feb. 14, 10 a.m. at Mendiola. This, according to Wilson, is a recognition that the forms of injustice confronting Filipino women are state-sponsored.
The activity would be followed by a multi-sectoral parade from the Quezon City Memorial Circle to the University of the Philippines – Diliman at around 3:00 p.m.
The main program is to be held at the University of the Philippines – Diliman campus.
Key cities in the Philippines would also hold their respective One Billion Rising events. Organizers noted that there would be a lot of participants in Davao and in Yolanda-hit areas.
The program here in Manila would be livestreamed.
The rest of the One Billion Rising activities to be held in 207 countries would also be livestreamed to highlight global solidarity, Wilson said.
“Majority of Filipino women have no food, no sustainable jobs, no affordable health care, education, housing and other social services. Women are poorer and hungrier under the administration of President Aquino,” Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luz Ilagan said.
Poverty, corruption and anti-poor policies
Mother Mary John Mananzan, OSB, said the most evident form of injustice against women is poverty caused by the widespread “corruption bacteria” in the government, in the business sector and even in the religious sector.
She cited the recent corruption issues such as the pork barrel scam and the infamous Janet Napoles case.
Mananzan said public funds that were pocketed by rich people should have been spent for poor families affected by Typhoon Yolanda.
Calamities, she added, are man-made as it is a result of the “rape of the earth” through mining and logging. “Why does the government insist on it? Because it is all about the money,” Mananzan said.
Aside from Yolanda-affected areas, Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan said the dire conditions of Filipinos affected by other disasters such as Typhoon Pablo and the Zamboanga siege last year remain the same. In the aftermath of disasters, women become more vulnerable to recruiters of human trafficking.
Karlo Manano of children’s advocates group Salinlahi said they recently received a report that five high school girls nearly became victims of sex trafficking in Basey, Samar, one of the Yolanda-hit areas.
“They have already suffered so much and this is what they get?” Manano asked.
Filipinos have come up with nicknames to refer to their impoverished conditions, said Jojo Guan of the Center for Women’s Resources. These are pagpag (left over) and altanghap (to eat once a day, literally translated from breakfast-lunch-dinner all rolled into one).
Guan, however, added, that Filipinos are already using the term “memorize” to refer to how they eat.
“It means they only have to imagine or ‘memorize’ the smell of a viand while they are eating rice,” she said.
Workers are also being deprived of a decent salary, according to Nits Gonzaga of Kilusang Mayo Uno. Women, she said, have always been at the forefront of struggle against injustice.
Such conditions have to Filipinos being forced to work abroad. Connie Regalado of Migrante Partylist said 5,000 documented Filipinos are now leaving everyday, 7 in every 10 are women.
At least 40 percent of women workers are employed as domestic helpers and entertainers, jobs that are very vulnerable to gender-related abuses, said Regalado. In the last two years, some 300,000 to 400,000 have become victims of human trafficking.
In a statement, Gabriela blamed government policies, which, they said, have aggravated the already impoverished conditions of Filipinos.
“The deregulated oil industry and highly liberalized trade are encouraging the private sector to make huge profits out of the delivery of public utilities and services — all these are making life difficult for more Filipino women and their families,” Ilagan said.
“Furthermore, President Aquino is doing Filipino women injustice by refusing to give relief from the onslaught of hunger and poverty,” she added.
Ilagan said that instead of providing families their much-needed relief from the unabated increasing prices of social services, Aquino has been prioritizing public private partnership projects and band-aid solutions such as the Conditional Cash Transfer.
Several groups leading the One Billion Rising have planned activities days before the main event on Feb. 14.
Comfort women of Lila Pilipina would hold a One Billion Rising for Justice in front of the Japanese Embassy on Feb. 12. Ritchie Extramadura of Lila Pilipina said they aim to highlight how women, for the longest time, are most vulnerable and often victims of wars of aggression.
“This is part of world history. And it will continue to happen because wars of aggression are still happening,” Extramadura said, adding that the “rotational presence” of US troops in the country has been worrying her as comfort women are proof of the threat that the presence of foreign troops has on women.
Students from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Philippine Women’s University, University of the Philippines and schools along the university belt in Manila would also “rise” for the One Billion Rising.
Children rights advocates and urban poor communities said they also would hold One Billion Rising activities.