#DearPope | Open letter to Pope Francis from Gabriela Women’s Party

January 15, 2015

Dearest Pope Francis,

Bienvenido! Benvenuto! Vi diamo il benvenuto con il collettivo abbraccio di maggioranza dellafilippina donne nelle Filippine

We thank you for coming to personally extend your compassion to a suffering people in the aftermath of the Yolanda disaster. May your visit pave the way for your deeper understanding of the Philippine situation particularly the impoverished condition of the majority of Filipino women.

We are your sisters who cannot find jobs in our own land and are forced to work abroad as domestic helpers or to be victimized as trafficked sex slaves, prostituted women or abused service workers. We are women who live in urban slums, who cannot even feed our children three decent meals a day. We are peasant women who toil over land monopolized by landlords.

Our daughters have been raped by politicians, soldiers, even priests and other persons in authority in our society. We ask you to join us in our quest for justice.

We are women who continue to suffer from massive displacement, illegal arrest and detention, torture and political killings due to President Aquino’s counterinsurgency program called Oplan Bayanihan.

We are mothers who have lost our loved ones in armed conflict and who long for peace based on justice.

We plea for your support for the resumption of peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front.

Our government claims the Philippines is a women-friendly country because of laws that purportedly protect and uphold the rights of women. But what good are laws when poverty becomes the backdrop of increasing violence against women?

At least 13 Filipino women are victims of domestic violence every day and poverty prevents them from leaving their abusive husbands or partners. Gabriela Women’s Party, representing marginalized women in the national parliament, has filed the Divorce bill since 2004, yet to date, this bill remains in the dustbins of the parliamentary walls. We urge you to lend your voice and enlighten our government and church leaders to free our sisters trapped in abusive marriages because we are deprived of the option of divorce.

We call on you to look beyond the deceptions that President Aquino will unfold before you. He and his officials will paint a rosy picture of economic growth by building infrastructures that hide the real situation of poverty among our people or even by demolishing “unsightly” slum houses that they do not want to be seen. Our leaders refuse to free our nation from the injustices of massive unemployment, landlessness and pervasive government corruption. They are Judases who betray the people in favor of foreign and big business interests.

We are moved by your humility and inspired by your simple lifestyle and continued pronouncements against social injustice.

We pray that you join us in our collective struggle to build a more humane life, free from oppression, violence and injustice.

Gabriela Women’s Party

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