“The fear of getting caught and arrested during clearing operations has always been there. I have always felt the discrimination, not just because I am a Muslim woman, but because I am poor and without a decent job.”
By MENCHANI TILENDO
MANILA — We were victims of the war in Mindanao, and we are also victims of demolition here in Metro Manila because of the Duterte’s harsh government,“ Diamond Kallaw, 53, said in her speech in Filipino during the International Women’s Day protest at Liwasang Bonifacio today.
Diamond, a Moro woman and a long-time sidewalk vendor, shared how she and her whole family traveled all the way from Marawi to Metro Manila to seek for a better life. They have instead found themselves in constant conflict with police forces during clearing operations and demolitions.
“We’ve experienced sleeping almost every night in the forests before, just to evade the war and never-ending chaos in Mindanao. Military violence targeted everyone – whether you’re a child or an adult, a man or a woman. We decided to move here in Manila with the hopes of living honorably. But here we are, still victims of the government’s cruelty in demolitions and clearing operations. For the longest time, we have been facing the threats of being displaced and arrested,” Diamond narrated.
For 30 years, Diamond has been a sidewalk vendor. She usually sells all sorts of things – from garments, rugs, to cheap toys, and pirated DVDs.
Life is harsh and dangerous for Diamond and her five children. Her husband has been sickly and jobless. Every single day, she takes on her livelihood as a sidewalk vendor, even with the risks of getting arrested and displaced any time.
“The fear of getting caught and arrested during clearing operations has always been there. I have always felt the discrimination, not just because I am a Muslim woman, but because I am poor and without a decent job,” she said.
For Diamond, Mindanao and Manila seem like the devil and the deep blue sea.
“Honestly, even though we’re struggling so hard here in the metro, we couldn’t manage to go back to Marawi because we have no life waiting there for us. The war has become even more cruel because of the implications of Duterte’s Martial Law in Mindanao,” Diamond said.
The government’s daily aggression against ordinary citizens like Diamond and her family is magnified by huge economic programs that never favor the poor.
“We, the poor and powerless, are the ones mainly victimized by Duterte’s development programs such as the Build, Build, Build. Instead of providing decent housing, they have prioritized infrastructure that never address our problems on lack of jobs and hunger,” she said.
Duterte’s Build, Build, Build program is $180-billion infrastructure spending bonanza. Urban poor group Kadamay said Build, Build, Build will displace thousands of urban poor to pave the way for the projects.
Strength in unity
Her experiences of discrimination, abuse, and government neglect were the very reasons why Diamond was convinced to join the women’s mass organization, Gabriela. Even with the rough conditions that she and her family face everyday, she has found comfort in the thought of being a part of a collective resistance.
“I have no other choice but to struggle and fight because that’s the only answer to the government’s abuse against us. My call to my fellow women is to stand up for the rights of the Filipino people. I am a woman, and I am not afraid,” Diamond ended. Bulatlat.com