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Violations of Women’s Rights in the Philippines (Presented by Liza Largoza Maza, Gabriela National Women’s Alliance, Philippines, at the WIDFPublic Meeting in Brussels, Belgium June 10, 2008) Sisters and friends, warmest greetings of solidarity from GABRIELA, a national alliance of women’s organizations in the Philippines. Let me thank you for giving me this opportunity to share with you the many violations of women’s rights committed against Filipino women. Violations of women’s human rights continue with impunity in our country. Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, upon her installation as head of state in 2001, launched Operation Bantay Laya or Operation Freedom Watch as its five-year counter insurgency plan. However, it failed to put a stop to the armed conflicts in our country after its target date of 2006. Mrs. Arroyo extended this to Oplan Freedom Watch Part 2 in 2007. What this scheme has accomplished, however, were extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances of hundreds of political activists, peasants, workers, journalists, church people, students and innocent civilians. Since President Arroyo took over the reins of government in 2001, extra-judicial killings in the country registered a total of 887 in 2007. Of this figure, 97 were women. Enforced disappearances or involuntary disappearance under the Arroyo administration totaled to 185 in 2007 including 31 women. All these violations have been attributed to the military and police and their civilian agents. Also to date there are 235 political prisoners in detention and 31 of them are women. Some of them have been languishing in jails for years without charges. President Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya (Operation Freedom Watch) Part 2 shows a continuing state violence committed by the Arroyo government against civilians, especially those involved in the legal democratic movement. The passage of the Human Security Act, commonly known as the Anti—Terrorism Law, undoubtedly compounds the problem, as the government can now easily hide their human rights violations under the cloak of fighting terrorism. So alarming is the Arroyo government’s human rights violations record that Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur for extra-judicial and summary or arbitrary executions, in his November 2007 report on the Philippines, admonished that “As Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the President must take concrete steps to put an end to those aspects of counter-insurgency operations which have led to the targeting and execution of many individuals working with civil society organizations. He strongly recommended that, extra-judicial killings must be eliminated from counter- insurgency operations. The Arroyo government has only done token steps not really to stop these violations but to assuage local and international outcry. Even its report to the United Nations Human Rights Council on the human rights situation in the country is deceiving for it did not present the real human rights situation in the county. Militarization of our communities in the countryside and urban poor continues and has brought trauma to women and children and men. Forcible evacuation because of continuous military operations has resulted into 7,542 individuals forcibly displaced from their communities from January to October 2007 alone. As a feature of Oplan Bantay Laya Part 2, the government employs “legal offensives” against those who are openly vocal against the repressive policies of the state. The Inter-Agency Legal Action Group created by virtue of the Anti-Terrorism Law in the country, supervises the systematic use of laws and the courts against leaders of militant organizations and progressive party list groups. Political repression against me and my party, the Gabriela Women’s Party, duly re-elected to the Philippine House of Representatives, as well as my other three colleagues from Bayan Muna Party List and Anak Pawis Party List continues up to this moment. Trump-up charges of murder and kidnapping were brought against us to silence us, remove us from the parliament and deny the poor and marginalized their representation. As I am speaking before you now, our motion for the judicial determination of probable cause is due for decision by the court. The threat of arrest and detention confront us at the moment. This is the state of human rights of wome and our people! Thank you.
"Violations of Women's Rights in the Philippines"