“The lives of women, especially those from the marginalized sectors, have worsened rather than improved belying the Aquino government’s claim of inclusive growth.” – Gabriela
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Women have had enough. On International Women’s Day, March 8, women from all walks of life gathered in a show of force and marched from Liwasang Bonifacio in Lawton to Chino Roces Bridge (former Mendiola Bridge) to hold President Benigno S. Aquino III accountable for “neglecting” and “being a burden” to the people. Around 10,000 people participated in the commemoration of the 103rd International Women’s Day.
Similar protests were held in the cities of Baguio, Laguna, Legazpi, Naga, Bacolod, Iloilo, Tacloban and Davao.
In Tacloban City, Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luz Ilagan joined the victims of typhoon Yolanda to protest the government’s criminal neglect of women and children, during the commemoration of International Women’s Day, four months since super typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) struck Eastern Visayas.
People Surge members in Manila stormed the ancestral home of Aquino in Times street in Quezon City. They wore black shirts and veils to dramatize their protest over the Aquino administration’s neglect of those who died, those who remain missing and even the survivors. They are holding Aquino accountable for the gross government neglect.
Joms Salvador, secretary general of Gabriela said that midway through Aquino’s term, the lives of women, especially those from the marginalized sectors, have worsened rather than improved belying the Aquino government’s claim of inclusive growth.
“The prices of commodities are all going up, but the salaries of teachers are not,” said Jocelyn Martinez, vice chairwoman of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers. She said 80 percent of teachers are women. “Three State of the Nation Addresses and four national budgets have passed but Aquino never even bothered to genuinely increase the budget for education,” Martinez said.
Neri Guerrero, chairwoman of Samahan ng mga Kababaihang Nagkakaisa said women are suffering everyday while trying to get food for their family. “This January, the price of rice increased again by P3 ($.07) per kilo.”
“We till the land for us to have livelihood but what did this haciendero President do? They bulldozed the land where our crops started to grow; they destroyed the huts of the farmers. And now they are fencing our land!” Flor Sibayan, woman leader of Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) said during the program in Mendiola.
Nitz Gonzaga, vice-chairwoman of the Kilusang Mayo Uno’s women’s desk criticized the recent survey of the Social Weather Stations, conducted from Dec. 11 to 16, that showed that the poor constituted 55 percent of the population. “This is a lie. The poor comprise eighty percent of the population, especially now that more and more workers are losing their jobs. Just recently, 3,600 workers, majority of whom are women, of Carina Apparel Incorporated lost their jobs because of the closure of the factory last February 21.” The said factory supplies brands like Marks & Spencer, Calvin Klein, Gap, Victoria’s Secret, Uniqlo, Forever 21, and Toray.
“The only sectors he ever included in this questionable growth are the big businesses and hacienderos (landlords) like him. The number of those who are foodless, homeless, landless and jobless has steadily increased yearly. On the other side, profits of big businesses like Meralco, Manila Water and Petron have grown in leaps and bounds,” said Joms Salvador, secretary general of Gabriela.
“Many people in Eastern Visayas are suffering from hunger. We cannot just sit and wait for the help from the government to arrive. That is why we are here in Manila to let the government know that help is not reaching far enough,” said Sister Edita Espolor, chairwoman of People Surge in a short program held in Times street.
They reiterated their demands: P40,000 ($901.18) cash relief to every family who survived the typhoon and to stop the no build zone or the no dwelling zone.
They also lambasted the alleged irregularities being committed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in the province of Biliran, Eastern Samar. According to People Surge, stories reached them that survivors are being bribed and forced to sign a document saying that they are satisfied with the government’s relief and rehabilitation efforts.
“The DSWD had used money just to clean the name of (former senator Panfilo) Lacson, the Aquino government’s relief and rehab czar. They are bribing the survivors with P1,200 ($27) to sign a document that they are contented with the rehabilitation efforts of the government,” said Marissa Caballao of People Surge. She added that those who are joining the rally of People Surge in the province are being threatened by the DSWD that they would not receive relief goods from the government.
She added that: “There was no casualty recorded in Vietnam when typhoon Yolanda hit the country. While in the Philippines, even as President Aquino boasted that they prepared choppers, evacuation centers and relief goods before the typhoon made landfall, there were more than 6,000 recorded deaths and now still counting. Relief operations dragged and relief goods were scarce days and weeks after the typhoon hit. Isn’t this negligence on the part of the President?”
“And even if we (the survivors) are alive, we are more likely to die with the continuing negligence of the government,” Caballao said.
Eleonor De Guzman, deputy secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said that policies of the government such as deregulation, privatization and liberalization are causing sufferings among the people. “The Congress has even railroaded Charter Change that will only benefit foreign investors, in clear violation of our national patrimony.”
A resolution amending the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution was recently approved by the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments. According to Bayan Muna Partylist, the resolution aims to remove existing Constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership of lands, media agencies and public utilities to attract more foreign investors.
“Are we going to let the US imperialists own our land? Are we going to let ourselves – the Filipino people be squatters in our own country? ” said Liza Maza, chairwoman of the International Women’s Alliance.
She said that during her last visit in Eastern Samar, the US-Aid has started rebuilding infrastructures such as hospitals and airport. “Why spend on infrastructure? Why not give the money to the survivors who need it the most or build houses or provide livelihood?”
“US imperialism is facing a crisis now and its agenda is to rake profits in poor countries like the Philippines,” Maza said.
Women to pursue the struggle
Women who marched toward Mendiola symbolically rammed through a more than life size paper mural of the President and his cohorts enjoying their loot gained from the neo-liberal policies of privatization, liberalization, deregulation and denationalization.
“Women will not let such hurdle to stop us as we march toward our vision of a society that will create industries that benefit the people rather than capitalists, enrich our lands with harvests that will be shared by all and not only by landlords,” Salvador said.
“Noynoy Aquino, the negligent President, look at the women, the people: lumalaban, naniningil, nagngangalit! (who are fighting, holding you accountable, and raging)” said Salvador.
Jacque Eroles, secretary general of Anakbayan said, “The women, youth and the people have no other option but to join the national democratic struggle. Our forbearance has an ending. We will fight for our right to education, land, jobs and salary increases.”
“The sufferings of our nation are also the sufferings of Filipino women. That is why we are committed to fight for the oppressed and abused women. This day, we vow to continue to fight for our principles and struggles,” said GWP Rep. Emmi De Jesus.