Archive for the ‘women’ Category

More Balikatan Woes in Bicol

April 20, 2009

militants declare:
Probe on Balikatan prostitution a whitewash!
The Bikolano Alliance for Nationalism against Balikatan (BAN BALIKATAN) called the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) probe on the Balikatan prostitution issue as nothing but a white wash.

According to Prof. Jocelyn Bisuña, spokesperson of BAN BALIKATAN, “the AFP is just trying to cover up the misdemeanors of the US troops that is why their so-called probe is just a white wash. Besides they will be investigating themselves so they would just exonerate themselves as well, like what they always do,”

“Their alibi stating that it might be other Caucasians visiting the Magayon festival that may be ordering the women does not hold water because as the head of the Tourism Committee of the Province of Albay Councillor Glenda Bongao said many legitimate tourists are complaining that because of the US troops booking all hotels here, they cannot go to the Magayon Festival,” Bisuña said.

“The top hotels here also say that most of their rooms if not all of them are occupied by US troops which number around 400 and considering the fact that at least 2 batches of 8-10 women are brought to these hotels every night tell us that they cater to a lot of Americans troops she said.”

“We have also received reports that residents of Uson, Masbate no longer have water because the US troops and the AFP consume it all. Just as we said the Balikatan will do more harm than good to the region and now we are already experiencing it,” added Bisuña.(Bicol Mail)

Anti-Balikatan Poster

April 17, 2009

Kalbaryong balikatan

http://kalbaryongbalikatan.blogspot.com

Editorial Cartoon: Sili Lover

April 16, 2009

spice-lover

Tsk!

NPA leader: Military behind daughter’s slay

March 9, 2009

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:55:00 03/09/2009

ka-parago

DAVAO CITY—If the killers of elementary teacher Rebelyn Pitao wanted to shatter her father, Commander Parago of the communist New People’s Army’s Pulang Bagani Command, they apparently failed.

Parago, whose real name is Leoncio Pitao, said the killing of his daughter might have devastated him but did not weaken his cause—the “revolution of the people who have been suffering from the hands of an oppressive government.”

Pitao granted selected journalists an interview in an upland village known to be an NPA stronghold in southern Mindanao on Sunday—three days after the body of his daughter was found in an irrigation ditch in Carmen town, Davao del Norte province.

Wearing a Mao cap and the NPA’s signature black shirt, Parago appeared calm but his eyes were somber. He exchanged jokes with NPA cadres.

The military has consistently denied involvement in Rebelyn’s abduction and killing.

“What they did to my daughter was painful but we must not stop. I am here not only as a father to her but a father to many other poor daughters and sons of the oppressed. Am I devastated? I am not. I am even inspired by her death to be relentless in fighting for the freedom of the poor,” Parago said.

He added: “I will not abandon the people because of this loss. Instead, I will continue the people’s revolution.”

His oldest son, Ryan, also an NPA cadre, said the death of his sister was unacceptable. But like his father, Ryan said, Rebelyn will now become their source of courage and strength to move forward.

“She is now our inspiration to broaden the democratic people’s revolution. My sister will now always be with all of us as we struggle against a bankrupt government,” said Ryan. He joined his father after surviving an attack of suspected government agents three years ago.

Parago said he had expected the military to target his family as government forces continuously failed to capture him. He claimed that the 10th Infantry Division’s military intelligence group was behind the abduction and killing of Rebelyn.

“No one has the intention, motive and track record of the MIG [military intelligence group]. They did this to my brother. They almost got my son. My other daughter, Rio, was tailed by elements of MIG when she was still studying and this continued even when she was already working. It was the 10th ID who said they wanted to get me … now who has the desire to see me weakened or dead?” Parago said.

But he said the NPA would not retaliate and follow the approach of the military. He, however, said that time will come for those who were behind the killing of Rebelyn to pay for their debts.

Rebelyn, 20, was on her way home on board a tricycle from St. Peter’s College in Toril District when she was snatched by armed men. She was forced into a white van and was overheard by the tricycle driver as screaming for help.

Her body bore torture marks and five stab wounds. Rope marks were also found around her neck, which could mean she was strangled.

The medico legal also found injuries in her genitals, believed to have been caused by a hard object.

The militant women’s group Gabriela took the killing as the government’s gift to them on International Women’s Day.

“She becomes the symbol of the entire Filipino women whose equal footing with men has been undermined by the Arroyo regime,” said Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan.

“What made it more outrageous was the fact that Rebelyn Pitao has dedicated her life to teaching, a profession that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has taken for granted over the years,” Ilagan said.

“Her only fault was being her father’s daughter,” Ilagan said.

In Manila, Anakpawis party-list Rep. Rafael Mariano in a statement blamed the President, specifically her anti-insurgency program, Oplan Bantay-Laya on the murder of Rebelyn. Jeffrey M. Tupas with reports from Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao, and Gil Cabacungan Jr. in Manila

Manila waits for US move on Cpl Smith DFA: Americans not ready to discuss issue

February 14, 2009

By Tarra Quismundo, Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:11:00 02/14/2009

Filed Under: Crime and Law and Justice, Subic rape case, Diplomacy

MANILA, Philippines — A Philippine official on Friday said any new negotiations on custody of Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith would have to wait until the Americans were ready to talk, and indicated Manila was powerless to compel Washington to sit down immediately.

“Right now, the department is very serious in coordinating with the US embassy. But they had to approach first their experts to get their legal opinion,” Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Bayani Mangibin said in a phone interview.

Mangibin said: “We don’t have a policy to wait for them … What can we do if they are not ready?”

Earlier, US diplomats made it clear they were firm in their position to keep custody of the American Marine convicted of raping the Filipino woman “Nicole” until the courts had ruled with finality on Smith’s appeal.

Smith has been confined in the US Embassy compound, according to US and Philippine officials, since December 2006 after he was sentenced by a Makati court up to 40 years in jail for raping Nicole during a one-night encounter at Subic Bay Freeport. He has elevated his case to the Court of Appeals.

A new furor erupted over the custody issue after the Supreme Court last week ruled that the US-Philippine executive agreement that allowed the embassy to keep Smith ran counter to the two countries’ Visiting Forces Agreement. The court ordered the DFA to immediately negotiate with the US the transfer of Smith to a Philippine-controlled facility.

Main concern

Mangibin said the DFA had started the “process of coordination” with the embassy on the issue of custody, based on the Supreme Court ruling. He said the DFA was also consulting the Departments of Justice and Interior and Local Government, and the Solicitor General.

“Our main concern is to look for appropriate arrangements for Daniel Smith,” he said.

The embassy has said it is studying the court decision and referred it to government legal experts in Washington.

Mangibin said formal negotiations could begin after the embassy had received the legal opinion from Washington and that in the meantime, Smith would stay at the embassy compound.

3 scenarios

Interior Undersecretary Marius Corpus said yesterday that after his last check on Smith on Feb. 5—or several days before the high court’s ruling came out—he met with an embassy political officer and discussed three possibilities in anticipation of a court decision.

In that meeting, Corpus saw the embassy’s steadfast position to continue holding on to Smith until the appeals process had been completed. After his December 2006 conviction, Smith was briefly held at a Makati jail before the embassy took custody of him—in the middle of the night—based on the controversial executive agreement.

“We talked about the possible consequences of the Supreme Court decision,” Corpus said. The discussion was not prompted by any advance information on the court’s eventual ruling, Corpus said when asked if there was any leak.

“One, that the Supreme Court would declare the VFA unconstitutional. Two, I said it’s highly probable that the court would affirm the VFA’s constitutionality, including the agreement [to hold Smith at the embassy], and that it would order some provisions of the VFA revised,” Corpus said by phone.

“Third, that everything will be upheld, both the VFA and the transfer (of Smith to the embassy).”

Lobby for Smith

Corpus said when the issue of custodial arrangement was brought up, the US side said: “We’ve already agreed on that. We’d like to continue what was agreed upon.”

Corpus said he heard that a congressman from Smith’s home state of Missouri was “lobbying in the State Department for it to take care of Smith.”

“That’s the reason why they defend Smith so much,” Corpus said, adding however that he had no categorical information about the supposed lobby.

Also discussed at the meeting was Smith’s condition while in detention, particularly his having gained a lot of weight, according to Corpus, who said he had been visiting Smith almost monthly.

“They (the embassy officials) said, ‘We should give him work, with your permission,’ so that he will not deteriorate physically,” Corpus said.

Corpus said he agreed, noting that similar activities were allowed local prisoners. He said he just asked that any chores given to Smith should not compromise the terms of his confinement.

‘He is bored’

“You can see the emotional stress in him,” Corpus said. “Every time I talk to him, I can see that he is emotionally suffering. He is very bored. The condition is even better in detention facilities outside, where [detainees] have some company.”

Corpus assured the Nicole camp that Smith remained inside the embassy compound, contrary to claims by some of the rape victim’s supporters that he had been spirited out of the embassy.

“Even if I visit him every day, they will not believe me,” Corpus said.

Send him to Munti

Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo has joined growing calls for Smith’s immediate transfer to a local prison.

“We demand that the Philippine government immediately effect the transfer of Smith to the New Bilibid Prison,” Ocampo said in a press statement. “We cannot understand why a clear-cut exercise of sovereignty, in this case custody over a convicted foreign felon, should be subject to negotiations.”

Ocampo added: “What the Philippine government should do is simply impose its own laws over a foreigner who violated those laws. It should not negotiate but order the US Embassy to turn over Smith to the proper local authority.”

Indefinite delay

The leftist lawmaker said the high court’s order for the DFA to arrange a detention place acceptable to Washington was just a ruse to “indefinitely delay” Smith’s transfer. With a report from Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.

Supreme Court orders US Marine into local custody

February 11, 2009

MANILA — (Updated 5:23 p.m.) The Philippine Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered a US Marine convicted of rape to be moved from the American Embassy into Philippine custody, reopening an emotional case that has become a rallying point for anti-American protests.

The court ruled that a deal allowing Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith to stay at the embassy while appealing his 40-year jail term was contrary to the Visiting Forces Agreement, which governs the conduct of U.S. forces in the country.

The justices instructed Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo to negotiate Smith’s transfer to an appropriate detention facility.

Pending such an agreement, Smith can remain at the embassy, the court said.

It also directed the Court of Appeals to quickly resolve Smith’s appeal.

The US Embassy issued a statement saying it would consult with legal experts in Washington.

The rape case has stirred emotions in the former US colony and became a rallying point for activists demanding an end to US military counterterrorism exercises.

Smith, 23, from St. Louis, Missouri, was detained and put on trial in 2006 after a woman accused him of rape. After sentencing, he was transferred from a local jail to US custody while his case was on appeal.

When a Filipino judge initially ordered that Smith be detained in a suburban Manila jail, the US government temporarily suspended joint, large-scale military exercises in protest. Washingon agreed to proceed with the annual Balikatan war exercises with the Philippines only after Smith had been transferred to the embassy.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo backed the US position and said Smith’s embassy detention was necessary to avoid complications in relations with its key ally.

A provision in the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement states that any accused US service member shall remain in American custody until all judicial proceedings are exhausted.

But there are differing interpretations of when that is. The Filipino woman’s lawyer, Evalyn Ursua, and the left-wing alliance Bayan claim Smith should be serving his sentence in a Philippine jail, regardless of his appeal.

Smith’s lawyer, Jose Justiniano, said he explained the implications of the decision to his client. He said Smith has no choice but to comply. (AP)(Sunstar)

The Plunderer’s Escape and the Activists’ Arrest

December 28, 2008

BY HELEN ASDOLO
Secretary General, Gabriela Southern Tagalog
5th Nominee, Gabriela Women’s Party
Posted by Bulatlat

The junking of the impeachment complaint is a glaring demonstration of injustice in this country. It is proof that big time plunderer and murderers in this country can go scot-free while human rights defenders, advocates and activists like me are being persecuted.

I, along with 71 other leaders of progressive and militant organizations in Southern Tagalog, have been charged with multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder for allegedly participating in the New People’s Army (NPA) raid in Puerto Galera, Mindoro Oriental last March 3, 2006.

What irony, what injustice. While we face threats of arrest and detention for baseless and fabricated charges, Congress simply just refused to hear and consider any evidence on the impeachment charges lodged against Mrs. Arroyo.

We in Southern Tagalog continue to hold Mrs. Arroyo responsible for the countless human rights violations, the slaughter of activists, militant leaders and women as well as the destruction of peasant and indigenous peoples communities and in our region.

That she was made to escape these charges by her allies in Congress, some of whom even came from the Southern Tagalog region, is outraging.

Despite the persecution and the attempts to immobilize and silence our organizations, we shall continue to expose the injustices, the violations, the plunder, poverty and violence that the corrupt and tyrannical Arroyo regime has brought upon our people. Posted byBulatlat.com

Women vow to end VAW

December 20, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — After almost 30 years since the United Nation’s declaration of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), women are still clamoring for equal rights.

In a forum here Friday, women from different sectors from Baguio City and other Cordillera provinces gathered and re-affirmed their resolve to end all forms of violence and discrimination against women and children.

According to Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) Representative Liza Maza, women’s rights do not just include gender rights but also economic, socio-cultural and political rights.

“We are not just asserting our gender rights but when we say women’s rights, it encompasses our economic, socio-cultural, political and gender rights,” said Maza.

Meanwhile, women from different sectors gave their testimonies to show how their rights are abused in different forms.

Militarization

Betty Belen of Uma, Lubuagan, Kalinga bear witness to how military forces wreak fear among the community members when the 21st Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) entered their ili without any permission and fired some rounds randomly.

“It was good that nobody was around but one of the cows ended up dead after being hit with four shots,” said Belen adding that because of the incident that happened in September 18, one of the pregnant women had a miscarriage because of fear.

According to Maza, militarization is not just happening in the countryside but in urban centers as well particularly in the urban poor communities in the National Capital Region (NCR) where military forces are now present to cause fear among progressive people’s organizations like Gabriela.

Gabriela among other progressive organizations are tagged by the AFP as terrorists and communist fronts thus considered as enemies of the state.

Demolition

Garet Killip, a vendor of Baguio City and a member of Organisasyon ti Nakurapay nga Umili ti Syudad (Ornus), said that everyday they face violence in the hands of the police who

“Despite that, we give daily kurtais (market fee), they do these harassment to us who only want to earn a decent living,” said Killip.

In Baguio City, tourism has driven the policy-makers to rid the public market, parks and sidewalks of “eye sores.” This has deprived the urban poor of a decent livelihood.

Labor rights violation

“Sa haba at lawak ng karanasan ko sa pagawaan, walang naibigay na mabuti ang kapitalista sa kababaihan.” (With my long experience in the factory, I could say the capitalists did nothing good for women.) This was just one of the many sentiments of Mel Macalood, a retrenched laborer of Adriste Philippines, Inc. in Baguio City’s Export Processing Zone Authority (EPZA).

Macalood said, as a lesbian worker, she was subjected to more discrimination as she and other lesbian workers were given “men tasks” like carrying heavy rolls of cloth but because they are women they just received a “woman’s pay” according to the management.

“Many factories prefer hiring lesbians because aside from doing ‘men tasks,’ the companies can get away from giving them maternity benefits as they do not get pregnant,” said Macalood who is also an active member of the Lesbians for National Democracy (Lesbond) based here in the city.

According to Macalood, she and nine other workers, mostly lesbians, were illegally dismissed from work in 2007 when the company sided with a production manager who they complained to have committed serious misconduct against his subordinates.

The 10 laid off workers were the ones trying to organize the workers in the company despite EPZA having a “no union policy.”

“It is the right of every woman to be organized, and that is what we are fighting for,” ended Macalood who is now a full time organizer of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) Cordillera.

Political persecution

The pain of not knowing the condition and whereabouts of a brother is hard to bear for a sister. This was the testimony of Nonette Balao, the sister of the missing activist James.

“How much pain can a woman bear? Sometimes we ask ourselves why does it have to happen to us? We also do not know why. Things like this should not happen by God’s law and by humanitarian acts,” lamented Balao.

“Mabtad tako amin apo! Our very own Igorot cry for our search for our enforcedly disappeared son, brother and friend. Let us all get out of our houses to assemble and shout our cries for James. Bumala tako am-in ibugao tako’y sakit di nemnem man bibinnadang tako ay manginap sin kabsat tako ay malit-litao,” said Balao.

The challenge

Maza said she was inspired by the testimonies of the brave women who continue to fight for what they deserve.

They did not just tell us about their situation but also shared to us their commitment to continue to assert our rights as women,” said Maza.

“There will come a time when we would stop to struggle for equal rights, nor kneel down and beg for society to respect us. Together we will earn that respect,” said Baguio City Councilor Pinky Chan-Rondez who also graced the occasion. # Cye Reyes(NorDis)

Modern-day Marias tackle woes

December 20, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Women’s groups here organize with families of survivords of violence a gathering here on Friday to commemorate the International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women (IDEVAW).

IDEVAW started Tuesday with a press briefing here that featured modern-day women’s issues.

Innabuyog-Gabriela Chair Vernie Yocogan-Diano said the modern-day “Marias” suffer from the brunt of the current socio-economic crises and face problems beyond physical and sexual harm.

Gabriela Women’s Party’s Liza L. Maza will be the main speaker at the forum dubbed “Asserting Women’s Rights Amidst the Philippine Socio-economic Crisis” at the Sangkabalayan Hall of the Baguio Cathedral. It shall start promptly at 1:00 P.M., according to Yogogan-Diano.

National indigenous women’s workshop

In connection with this commemoration, Innabuyog and the Asia Indigenous Women’s Network (AIWN) hosted the national women’s network BAI conference last Sunday up to Tuesday. The conference gave indigenous women from as far south as Mindanao, Panay and Palawan a chance to share experiences with their counterparts in Cagayan and Cordillera regions in the north.

Using the situation of nine indigenous communities, the workshop discussed particular and distinct violence against indigenous women in the Philippines.

Of particular interest that spruced up discussions were the sharing of women from mining communities in Mindanao, Palawan, Cagayan and Cordillera. It turned out mining applications by foreign mining transnational corporations cover inhabited communities like Conner in Apayao, Kinam in Saranggani, Siocon in Zamboanga del Norte and Mariwara in Princess Urduja, Palawan

“These are but case studies that show how mining has changed women’s roles as their traditional sources of livelihood have been destroyed by mining operations,” Yocogan-Diano said.

Pesticides on breakfast coffee

Discussions also ran high on the mono-crop plantations in Mindanao, where aerial spraying of pesticides have been reportedly bringing about health problems among residents, especially women who work in the plantations.

In an interview, Norma Capuyan, chairperson of the BAI Kalumaran, said banana plantation workers in Davao City are directly exposed to pesticides resulting from aerial spraying. She narrated the story of a woman who later died in 2004 after gathering kangkong (marsh cabbage) from a creek that carries pesticide overflows from a Dole Stanfilco plantation.

“Practically almost nothing was left of her body when she died three months after,” Capuyan told Baguio reporters. At least four local doctors opined her internal organs were damaged. Her skin and flesh stuck to the beddings, she said.

In an earlier interview, another Davao City resident said people in the vicinity of the plantations even drink their pesticide coffee when the helicopter would spray early in the morning.

“School children practically bathe in the pesticide showers when they meet the helicopter on their way to school,” our anonymous source said.

Driving indigenous folk away

Pests attack farms outside the banana plantations, depriving peasants of their traditional crops.

Worse, indigenous farmers have been enticed into renting out their lands to the plantations for a measly P12,000 a year per hectare. According to Capuyan, this has been polarizing community folk.

Similarly in Sarangani province, jathropa plantations have expanded by renting lands at P20,000 per year per hectare.

A military reservation in Panay Island, on the other hand has fenced off indigenous peoples from their traditional sources of income and livelihood. Curfew was imposed from 8:00 P.M. to 4:00 A.M. with land mines compelling residents to refrain from going out of their houses.

Ventilating women’s issues

Eleanor Bang-oa, a Kankanaey from Baguio City who represents AIWN, said the situation requires capacity building among indigenous women to enable them to articulate their issues, give recommendations for government action, corporate involvement and forward these to concerned bodies in the United nations.

“Women should exhaust efforts and means to raise issues and concerns,” Bag-oa said, adding the Convention to Eliminate Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is one venue where indigenous women could ventilate concerns.

Innabuyog, BAI and AIWN, in a joint statement said indigenous women in the Philippine will continue addressing issues of violence against indigenous women along with the general issues faced by indigenous peoples and women in the country.

“It is necessary to deepen our understanding on the various forms of violence, build strength to assert our collective rights to land, resources and self-determination as well as our basic individual rights and against feudal-patriarchal and commercial view that discriminate us as women and limit our full participation in all spheres of involvement and development,” the joint statement said. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorDis)

Women’s Front: We fight hunger, we fight poverty! We assert our survival!

October 22, 2008

By INNABUYOG-GABRIELA

The government says you live with P46 a day or P16,810 in a year (US358). This is the poverty threshold in the Cordillera according to the National Statistics Coordinating Board (NSCB). This is half the poverty threshold, which is US$2 a day as prescribed by the World Bank and International Labor Organization.

Rural and urban poor women say this is not even enough for one person’s square meals. On the other hand, the government also says, the daily family living wage in the Cordillera is P834 (US$17.7) and 20% of this is allocated for food.

Women say, with their current income of P50-250 (US$1-5.3) a day, 80-100% of their family income is spent on food. Oftentimes, the income is not even enough to buy the family’s food of rice and viand.

The current level of poverty in the Cordillera region and in the country gives women an added burden of stretching the measly resources of their families.

According to indigenous peasant women in Conner, Apayao, what used to be food for the family is now brought to market in order to get additional cash for the family. Before, it was easy to share rice, vegetables, fruits and other food products to neighbors and relatives. With the economic crisis now, women find it hard to share any food item.

What little produce that the family may spare, are sold to buy other food needs. The produce is not even enough for the family with production getting costlier, the attack of pests, irrigation problems and change in climate pattern. What used to be part of the meal like meat, fish and milk for the children, are reduced if not stricken out from the list. This situation is echoed by other women in other parts of the region, in the interior villages, in town and urban centers.

The face of hunger and poverty in the Cordillera may not have reached starvation levels but obviously, families are forced to adjust in the volume and quality of food for their families. Women say what cannot be absent in their kitchen is rice thus all means to provide and seek is done by them and their husbands. This usually means separation of family members as one parent, even women, go to other places for wage labor or overseas as domestic workers.

All remedies to ensure food for the family are sought by women — vending, wage labor, loans and availing of small government livelihood projects which hardly help in alleviating the rural women’s economic conditions. Indeed this situation creates the vulnerability of women to deception, patronage and even to engagement in anti-social activities, like prostitution.

Today, we observe the 13th year of the World Rural Women’s Day and the 29th year of World Food Day. As rural indigenous women, we no longer enjoy abundance of food in our farms and kitchens. As toiling women in town and urban centers, we do not have just wages and secured livelihood to feed our children with the right volume and quality of food.

Families living under the poverty threshold in the Cordillera increased to 28.8% as compared to 25.8% in 2003 (NSCB). Cordillera provinces except for Benguet are part of the top 20 poorest provinces in the country. Apayao and Abra top the poverty incidence of 57.5% and 50% respectively.

The real poverty situation among rural and urban poor women is more downright than these government indicators.

Hunger and poverty is worsened by the inflation rate of 11.4%, the highest in the last 14 years. Rice price rose by 60%, other food commodities followed suit, aggravated by the non-stop oil price hikes of more than P20 per liter.

Hunger and poverty is also worsened by the continuing militarization of the countrysides and the government’s national mineral liberalization program that offered more than 60% of the Cordillera land to foreign mining corporations.

Hunger and poverty has been acknowledged by the Department of Education as the cause for the increased drop-outs among children. The malnutrition rate remains high among rural children in the region despite government’s Food-for- School Program.

National governments and international economic institutions speak about solving the global hunger and poverty problem targeting to reduce global poverty by one half in 2015 through the Millennium Development Plan. It is alarming that 1.4 billion people or almost a quarter of the world’s population, live below the international poverty line, or earning below US$1.25 a day (World Bank). Each year, 5.6 million children aged 5 years and below die as a result of malnutrition. The hunger and poverty situation is aggravated by the soaring of food prices which became particularly steep in the 1st months of 2008(report of the UNSR on Food). Overall, the price of food commodities rose by 83% over the last 36 months.

However, the current global food crisis should not be used by the GMA government as its excuse for the country’s food and economic crisis. It only shows the vulnerability of the Philippine economy being export-oriented and import dependent and driven by neo-liberal globalization. While the GMA government has earmarked P366 billion for it’s Anti-poverty Program which is distributed to National Social Welfare program amounting to P45 billion, the Noah’s Ark Framework amounting to P316 billion and Hunger Mitigation Program amounting to P5 billion, the results of these programs have yet to be seen in the quality of life of poor indigenous women and their communities.

The indigenous peasant women’s organizations in the Cordillera and Innabuyog join rural women and the peasant organizations in the country and the whole world in their actions to decry the hunger and poverty situation and assert their food sovereignty. At the international level, Innabuyog links with the efforts of the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS), Pesticide Action Network-Asia Pacific (PAN-AP), the Don’t Globalize Hunger campaign of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), Asia Peasant Coalition and the Asia Rural Women’s Coalition.

Innabuyog asserts that food can only be secured with a healthy economic condition where the government has the political will to address the age-old problem of land reform, enable the development of national industries that truly develops national economy, support for domestic food production, respect for indigenous peoples’ rights to their ancestral lands and of their resources and get rid of liberalization policies which kill the development of agriculture and domestic food production.

As we assert our survival and the survival of future generations, we will not allow ourselves to be defeated by dole-outs, state terrorism and never will we bow down to the capitalist greed on our land and food resources. We will continue to assert our right to our land , and defend our food resources and harvest. #

Women’s Front: Celebrating women’s courage amid terror and fascism

October 5, 2008

By INNABUYOG-GABRIELA

When Martial law was declared by the late President Ferdinand B. Marcos on September 21, 1972, the Filipinos were stripped off of basic freedoms. Precious liberty was censored as curfews and other sorts of restrictions were enacted as laws. People were silenced and forced to take the state’s fascism with a grain of salt.

As the right to life and liberty were violated, some Filipinos still persisted. They defied the iron fist of Martial Law as they saw the need to fight for the restoration of human rights. They persisted, even in small groups, to educate the people and inspire the youth to emerge.

On September 19, the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) recognized some of the heroes that the Martial Law gave birth to. As part of the commemoration of the ML declaration, the first “Gawad Tanggol Karapatan” was granted to the men and women on Northern Luzon who fought during the time when it was most dangerous to do so.

Among the 14 awardees, the “Gawad Tanggol Karapatan” was awarded to five resilient women. They are strong women who became mothers, sisters and friends to those suffering persecution. Regardless of the limitations and expectations of the society as women, they boldly resisted ML.

The late Sr. Esperanza Quirino of the Religious of the Good Shepperd was best known as “Speedy Parang.” From her speeches to her actions, ‘Speedy Parang’ hurried each day to service the most that she could. She served as the human rights coordinator in Cagayan Valley. During the times of the martial rule, she organized aid for the political prisoners as part of the Task Force Detainees in Isabela. Even with the conditions of her tuberculosis (which later consumed her life in 2006), she pushed herself, hopping from different provinces to help those in need. She gathered whatever she could, including fresh produce to the solicited goods from whoever she met and gave them to those who needed it most. She transformed charity into a people’s struggle.

As the story goes, once you see Sr. Parang, look no further and you will also see Sr. Shatz. The late Sr. Anunciata Salamatin, was the buddy of Sr. Parang. Together, they serviced to the widest of people. Sr. Shatz was growing old and sick but she never took medications. As she put it, rather than spending so much money on her medication, she chose to give this money to the struggling poor. She was known as a friend to the poor. She was also an avid watchdog of human rights. She believed that justice is free for everyone.

Another HR defender from the religious sector is Sr. Aurora Dulay. To the people who know her, she is known to be determined, kind but firm. Also keen on the campaign for the protection of human rights, Sr. Aurora saw fit that justice, equality and truth should be inculcated to children at an early age. She integrated the value of truth in schools as part of the curriculum and even in certain areas like Math, English and Science.

Mother Marylou Felizco’s realization about the oppression in the country came when her child entered a progressive group. Witnessing her children’s group propagate the words of liberty to the nation, she opened her arms to these young bloods. She and her husband gave the young activists a shelter away from the claws of martial rule. She calls these children, now grown up, as her “political children.” She eventually joined several progressive groups ranging from HR to women’s sector.

As she traveled in the different areas of the country, she realized that the real problem of women in the Philippines is poverty. She realized that the enemy of women is the poverty that engulfs not only a woman but her entire family as well. The plight of the Filipino women is close to Mother F’s heart. She understood that women carried double the burden in the society. Women carry the thought of having to work harder for the survival of her family. And with the oppression, this thought gets even more complicated. As part of the Innabuyog-Cordillera, she gives herself for the cause of women and their struggle for assertion.

Petra Macli-ing also received the award. She is best known as “Mother Petra.” At a young age, she was widowed and was left to raise eight children on her own in Mainit, Bontoc, Mountain Province. Each day, she played the role of both mother and father to her children. She tended to their farm daily and worked in their store afterwards. In the late 1970s their land, homes and livelihood were threatened with a plan to build the Chico Megadam, a World Bank funded project. Realizing the threat in the life and survival of the community, Mother Petra was one of the locals who helped organized a campaign against the construction of the dam. They formed human barricades against the large machineries.

Mother Petra mobilized the women of Bontoc and fronted women in the barricades to prevent protesting locals from being killed by the Philippine Constabulary which served as the security force of the project. She is also best known for her courageous effort to lead the women to bare their breasts when the clashes were getting violent. This was her way to push away the enemies and at the same time, shame them.

Mother Petra’s fight against the Chico Dam reflects her true heart as a mother. During her acceptance of the “Gawad Tanggol Karapatan” she explained the struggle for the land is a woman’s big responsibility.

Mother Petra also went beyond her limitations. During the dictatorial rule, she helped mobilize the women in Bontoc to campaign for the release of political prisoners. She joined the lobbying for the release of these prisoners.

Tough the Martial Law ended, these women continued to struggle. They carry with them the courage to fight and protect human rights and the inspiration to give to the next generations.

Today, poverty rates go high up and human rights continues to be violated. People who oppose the regime are silenced and denied of their rights and privileges. As Mother Petra puts it, educated or not, we all have the equal capacity to protect the rights that are due to each one of us. As women in this society, we also take part in the defense of our land, rights and resources. As parting words, according to Mother Petra, we women are also the carriers and the cradle of the new generations to come. Let us be the educators. Let us be the defenders and let us be the inspirations for the future. # (NorDis)

Militarization threatens food security — women’s group

October 5, 2008

TABUK, Kalinga — As part of Innabuyog’s campaign on Land, Food and Rights, it launched a series of community workshops all over the Cordillera region to assess the food crisis, its impact to women, coping community actions and recommendations for government.

Done with the Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Center (CWEARC) the recent workshop that took place in Kalinga identified militarization as one of the burdens and a threat to food security on top of the unbearable impact of the worsening economic crisis.

Women whose major role is to ensure food for their families have much to say on the effects of militarization. A case in point is the experience of Ag-agama women, who recalled the brutal killing of their village mate Kagawad Rocky Aboli by members of the 21st in July 2008.

Such incident has left a situation of fear among the residents especially women and children. During military operations, community members are afraid to go to their farms for fear of being suspected as rebels.

Our swidden farms were left untended and we do not know what happened to the legumes that we have just harvested,” Manang Betty lamented.

Besides the worry of where to get food for the next meal, they also fear the safety of their husbands and children.

Even the school teachers worry much for the safety of their pupils such that they advised their pupils not to go to school especially when there is a helicopter flying in the vicinity. Helicopters are used to clear the area by strafing before landing.

This system of clearing indeed endangers anyone within the vicinity making everyone a target including animals and other properties.

Manang Betty added the community does not need the presence of military in their community. She said they are peace-loving people and they have a high respect for one another.

“Sometimes the military would say that they came to teach school children but we do not need them because we can actually teach our own children,” Manang Betty said.

Aware of its heavy impact to their livelihood, women participants continued to call on the Arroyo government to stop militarization in the countrysides. What they reiterated is viable economic development and social services that will ease our burden.

Women leaders promised to intensify their campaign against militarization, among other issues and concerns they have to face. At the same time they have to strengthen and develop new ways to increase food production to cope with the worsening economic crisis. # Virgie Dammay (NorDis)

Court issues writ of amparo for suspected NPA

October 1, 2008

BACOLOD CITY — The Bacolod regional trial court issued a writ of amparo against Senior Supt. Rosendo Franco, Negros Occidental police director; Senior Supt. Ronilo Quebrar, Bacolod police chief; Senior Insp. Luisito Acebuche, Bacolod police Station 1 chief, and Brig. Gen. Josue Gaverza, commander of Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade, for the arrest of Gabriela volunteer Mary Grace Delicano.

Government authorities maintained that Delicano is a top ranking rebel leader in Negros island, something Delicano denies. Her brother Benedicto filed for the issuance of the writ of amparo which Bacolod Judge Ray Alan Drilon ruled as sufficient in form and substance.

The writ of amparo, approved by the Supreme Court in October 2007, is a legal remedy available to any person whose right to life, liberty and security, is violated or threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employe, or of a private individual or entity.

The respondents were ordered to submit their written response within 72 hours from its receipt.

Drilon set the summary hearing on the petition on Friday.

Delicano was arrested here based on an arrest warrant for robbery-in-band. An alleged former comrade in the communist movement in Northern Negros identified her as the finance officer of the Kilusang Larangang Northern Negros, Komiteng Rehiyonal-Negros of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army. – Gilbert Bayoran (Malaya)

Repro health bill activists rally for public support

September 26, 2008

BAGUIO CITY ― With the congressional plenary hearing set anytime next week on House Bill 5043 or the Reproductive Health Care Bill, its advocates work double-time at gathering signatures in support of the bill.

Eden R. Divinagracia of the Philippine NGO Council on Population, Health and Welfare (PNGOC), in a press conference here, Thursday said there are now at least 90 co-sponsors for the bill that Cong. Edcel Lagman is pushing. Gabriela Women’s Party’s Representatives Liza Maza and Luz Ilagan also support the bill.

Divinagracia appeared in the said press conference with Cordillera Population Officer Aurora Quiray, Department of Health’s Dr. Amelita M. Pangilinan and Baguio Health Department’s Purificacion S. Serna and Lolita Dicang.

While the opposing view from the Roman Catholic church is gathering support for the non-passage of the bill due to its advocacy for artificial contraceptives, Divinagracia said the bill continues to gain strength with its own supporters’ signature campaign. She said a nationwide signature campaign has been launched to support the bill and push for its passage.

“We shall keep on gathering signatures for the bill,” Divinagracia said. She recalled the bill has endured eight years in Philippine Congress and has been refiled many times.

The Reproductive Health Advocacy Network (RHAN) initiated an online petition to gather one million signatures to show legislators there is a wide support base for the bill’s passage, according to Divinagracia.

The bill advocates reporductive health care which should include, among others, maternal and child health and nutrition; breastfeeding; family planning; prevention of abortion; elimination of violence against women; male involvement; and education for youth in the right age.

Divinagracia enjoins local chief executives and legislators to initiate localizing the bill for its benefits to trickle down on the people especially the poor. # Lyn V. Ramo (NorDis)

Welga ng minomolestiyang manggagawa tagumpay

September 24, 2008

Ilang-Ilang Quijano

TAGUMPAY ang welga ng 200 babaing manggagawa ng Bleustar Manufacturing and Marketing Corporation, pagawaan ng sapatos na Advan sa Muntinlupa City.

Kamakailan, kinilala ng manedsment ang Bleustar Workers’ Labor Union o BWLU, ibinalik ang tinanggal na mga manggagawa, at binuo ang Committee of Decorum and Investigation na mag-iimbestiga sa mga kaso ng pangmomolestiya ng isa sa mga may-ari ng kumpanya na si Jimmy Ong (Basahin ang istoryang “Pangmomolestiya sa pabrika”).

Pinuri ng Gabriela ang nagtagumpay na mga manggagawa. “Sana magsilbing inspirasyon ang tagumpay na ito para sa iba pang kababaihang manggagawa na maglakas-loob na labanan ang sexual harassment sa pagawaan.”

Ayon pa sa grupo, pinatutunayan ng kaso ng BLWU na sa ang tunay at militanteng unyonismo lamang ang magkakapagtaguyod ng interes ng mga babaing manggagawa.

Dagdag pa ng Gabriela, dapat magsilbing “wake-up call” o panggising sa Department of Labor and Employment ang kaso ng mga manggagawa ng Bleustar para imbestigahan ang mga kaso ng sexual harassment sa iba pang mga pabrika. (PinoyWeekly)

Karaniwang kaganapan sa kanayunan

September 24, 2008

Pons Caudilla (Bikol Xpress)

NASA koprahan sa bundok ang mga magsasakang sina Nelfa Cledera, 44 at Maricel Camacho, 35, bandang alas-10 ng umaga noong ika-3 ng Setyembre, nang may lumapit sa kanilang armadong lalaking nagpakilalang mga miyembro umano ng NPA (New People’s Army).

Ayon sa mga armado, hinahanap daw nila ang kanilang mga kasamahan at isasama sina Nelfa at Maricel sa paghahanap. Tumanggi sina Nelfa at Maricel dahil hindi naman sila mga NPA at hindi nila alam kung ano ang pinagsasabi ng dalawang armado.

Agad-agad, pinuwersang kunin ng mga ito kay Nelfa ang dala-dalang P2,000. Panggastos sa eskuwela ng anak ang perang ito ni Nelfa, kung kaya nagmakaawa siya. Pero matigas ang mga armado.

Pilit na isinama sina Nelfa at Maricel ng dalawa upang magsilbing giya para hanapin ang iba umano nilang mga NPA. Sa kabila ng pagtanggi nila, patuloy pa rin ang pagtatanong ng dalawang armado. Walang nagawa ang dalawang magsasaka kundi sumama.

Dalawang oras na halos silang sapilitang pinaglakad ng mga armado. Nagulat na lamang sila nang makita nila sa lugar na pinagdalhan sa kanila ay maraming militar. Nakilala umano nilang militar ang mga ito dahil sa suot na fatigues.

Lumapit sa kanila ang isa sa mga militar at sapilitan silang pinaamin na mga miyembro ng NPA. Sinabi nito na dati siyang NPA kaya mabuti na ituro na nila ang lugar kung nasaan ang kanila umanong mga kasamahan. Wala namang maisagot ang mga dinukot.

Nagpatuloy silang maglalakad. Isa sa mga militar ang lumapit kay Nelfa at nagbantang kukulatain siya nito ng baril kung hindi magsasabi ng totoo. Nagsisigaw habang umiiyak si Nelfa at nagmamakaawa dahil wala naman daw silang alam at wala naman silang kasalanan.

Pagdating nila sa lugar ng Pasimbugan, sumagi sa isip ni Nelfa na tumakas na sila dahil baka patayin sila ng mga armado. Pero maraming taong sibilyan na makakakita sa kanila kaya hindi na rin nila ito itinuloy. Pinasakay sila sa isang bangkang de-motor kasama ng mga sundalo.

Pagdating sa lugar ng Tamban ay pinagtitingan sila ng mga tao. May lumapit pa nga raw na ilang sibilyan at tinanong sila kung bakit kasama sila ng Army. Ano daw ang ginawa nilang kasalan?

“Wala kaming kasalanan, magkokopra sana kami tapos sapilitan kaming isinama nila, sa takot namin ay sumama kami kahit hindi namin alam kung saan papunta,” tugon ni Nelfa.

Sapilitang pisinakay ang mga dalawa sa isang sasakyang ng militar at dinala sa detatsment ng mga sundalo sa Brgy. Mananao, Tinambac Camarines Sur. Humihingi pa sana sila ng tulong sa mga sibilyan kaso wala namang magawa ang mga ito. Pagdating sa nasabing detatsment, palit-palitang na ininteroga sila at pinaranas ng matinding mental at sikolohikal na pagpapahirap. Binantaan pa sila na pagdumating na ang umaga ay papatayin sila kung hindi magsasabi ng totoo.

Sumunod na araw, mag-aalas-dos ng hapon, pinakawalan ang mga biktima, matapos sapilitang kunan ng litrato at pinapirama ng samut-saring dokumento na hindi naman pinabasa sa kanila, bagkus ay binasa lang ito sa harap nila. Ang sabi ng mga sundalo na ang nilalaman ng mga dokumento umano kusang-loob silang sumama sa mga sundalo at hindi pinilit.

Tulala ng tatlong araw si Nelfa dulot ng hindi makakalimutang pangyayari.

Pinaghihinalaang mga tropa ng 42nd Infantry Battalion ng Army ang dumukot at nagpahirap kina Nelfa at Maricel, ayon sa Karapatan, alyansang pangkarapatang pantao. (PinoyWeekly)

(Alam Nyo Ba Mga Mare?) Ang maging babae sa kasalukuyang panahon

September 24, 2008

Gert Ranjo-Libang

MGA mare, pakiramdam niyo ba’y tila walang humpay ang atake sa ating kababaihan? Ngayong linggo lang, samu’t saring prublema ang hinaharap ng kababaihang Pilipino. Tila ba, ayon nga sa tula ni Joi Barrios, “ang pagiging babae ay ang mamuhay sa panahon ng digma.”

Nitong Martes, Setyember 16, ika-17 anibersaryo ng pagsipa natin sa military bases ng Kano. Ilang dekada ring nakibaka ang mamamayang Pilipino bago napatalsik ang mga pasakit na military bases. Sa kasawiampalad, makalipas ang 17 taon, heto’t namamayagpag na naman ang mga sundalong Kano sa Pilipinas. Hindi na lang “military exercises” ang ginagawa nila, halos naka-base na sila sa Mindanao. Gayundin, ang mga problemang dulot ng presensya ng mga sundalong Amerikano – prostitusyon at pang-aabuso ng mga Pilipina – ay naririto muli. Maging ang mga lokal na opisyales ng pamahalaan sa Mindanao ay hindi maitanggi ang pagtaas ng tantos ng prositusyon lalo na dahil sa mga sundalong Kano na nakahimpil.

Nang sumunod na araw, nakaharap naman ng GABRIELA ang si Cuban Ambassador Jorge Rey Jimenez na nagsalita tungkol sa limang mamamayang Cubano na nakapiit sa Amerika dahil tinaguriang terorista daw. Ang mga asawa nila’y pinagkakaitan din ng karapatang mabisita ang kanilang mga mister. Hindi malayo ang kanilang karanasan sa karanasan ng maraming asawa, ina, kapatid at anak na bitkima din ng paglabag ng karapatang pantao dito sa Pilipinas.

Nitong Huwebes nama’y sexual harassment ang hinarap na usapin ng GABRIELA. Kasama ang mga manggagawa ng Bleustar Marketing and Manufacturing Corporation (BMMC), gumagawa ng sapatos at botas na Advan, nakipag-usap tayo sa mga opisyales ng Department of Labor and Employment. Nalathala na dito sa Pinoy Weekly ang kwento ng mga manggagawang kababaihan ng BMMC na ilang taon nang biktima ng sexual harassment ng may-ari ng BMMC na si Jimmy Ong. Maging ang mga opisyales ng DoLE ang nagsabing walang ngipin ang Anti-Sexual Harassment Law of 1995. Ayon sa batas na ito, lahat ng kumpanya at pabrika ay dapat magtayo ng committee on decorum and investigation (CODI) at magpatupad ng mga alintuntunin at patakarang upang maiwasan, maimbestigahan at maaksyunan ang mga kaso ng sexual harassment sa loob ng kumpanya o pagawaan. Pero ang DoLE na rin ang nagsabing kung sakali mang hindi sumunod dito ang mga kumpanya at pabrika, ang tanging magagawa nila’y sabhin ang mga itong sumunod (comply).

Kinabukasan naman, usapin naman ng migranteng Pilipino ang kinaharap natin. Sa dami ng biktima ng paglabag sa karapatan ng mga migranteng Pilipino, tila nababaliw na ang Department of Foreign Affairs sa kaiisip ng mga patakaran para mapagtakpan ang ganitong katotohanan. Ayon na rin sa DFA, 1,000 migrante ang napauwi ng Pilipinas dahil sa pagmamaltrato sa kanila ng kanilang mga amo. Kalakhan dito’y domestic helpers, kalakhan ay kababaihan. Sa Middle East na lang kung saan may 25,000 Pilipinong manggagawa, 90% ay domestic helpers. Kaya naman hindi maubos-ubos ang kababaihang migranteng umuuwi mula sa Middle East na luhaan, walang pera, pasa-pasa at bugbog sarado at sa pinakamalala, umuuwing nabaliw o bangkay na. Idaan daw sa psychological test at itaas daw sa 30 anyos ang edad ng mga Pilipinong nagnanais mag-DH sa ibang bansa. Aba’y kahit anong tino at kahit anong edad ninuman na araw-araw sasaktan, hindi pakakainin, ikukulong at pagsasamantalahan, hindi kataka-takang mabaliw. Lalo pa’t kung hindi pansinin kapag dumulog sa mga embahada o konsulada ng Pilipinas sa ibang bansa. Ang mga opisyal ng pamahalaan natin ang kailangang magpa-psychiatric test, ‘di ba, mga mare?

Nitong Biyernes din nagkaroon ng oral argument ang Korte Suprema tungkol sa Visiting Forces Agreement, kung ito ba’y naaayon sa ating konstistusyon. Ang isa sa mga argumento ng mga nagsampa ng kaso laban sa VFA, kasama na rito ang GABRIELA, ang pagbibigay ng karapatan sa Estados Unidos na kupkupin ang mga Amerikanong personnel nito na nililitis dahil sa krimeng ginawa sa loob ng Pilipinas ay malinaw na paglabag sa konstitusyon. Patunay na dito ang nangyari sa kaso ng Subic Rape. Matapos mahatulang “guilty”, pinaubaya ng gobyernong Pilipino ang kustodiya ng rapist na si Lance Corporal Daniel Smith sa US Embassy. Malinaw na pambabastos ito sa kapangyarihan ng Korte ng Pilipinas at paglapastangan sa karapatan ng sinumang Pilipino na makamit ang hustisya laban sa sinumang lumabag sa karapatan niya.

Kung nagsimula tayo sa anibersaryo ng pagpapatalsik sa baseng militar ng mga Kano, magtatapos naman tayo sa anibersaryo ng Martial Law. Sa Linggo, gugunitain ang ika-36 na anibersaryo ng pagdeklara ng Martial Law. Mahigit tatlong dekada na ang nakaraan pero wala pa rin pinag-iba. Katunayan, parang Martial Law ngayon sa ilang komunidad sa Metro Manila at ang GABRIELA ay isa sa mga inaatakeng organisasyon. Sa Vitas at Smokey Mountain sa Tondo at sa Bgy. Batasan at Bgy. Bagong Silangan sa Quezon City, nililigalig ng mga sundalo sa ilalim ng Civil Military Operations ang mga lider at myembro ng lokal na tsapter ng GABRIELA. Patuloy pa ring pinalalabas sa mga komunidad ang “Know Your Enemy” kung saan ang GABRIELA, kabilang ang ibang pang-masang organisasyon, ay tinataguriang “communist front.” Kaduwagang matatawag ang ginagawang ito ng AFP, ang puntiryahin ang mga nanay sa komunidad at pag-initan ang mga lehitimong organisasyon.

At sa gitna ng lahat ng ito, kahit bumababa ang presyo ng langis, hindi naman bumababa ang presyo ng bilihin. Haay, mga mare! Atake sa kabuhayan, atake sa karapatan, atake sa atin bilang babae sa loob o labas man ng bansa, atake sa atin ng sundalong Pilipino at Amerikano…tila walang katapusan.

Pero, huwag mawalan ng pag-asa, mga mare. Tuluy-tuloy pa rin ang laban. Sa bawat pagharap natin sa mga atakeng ito, sa bawat paglampas natin sa mga pandarahas na ito, lalo tayong tumitibay at lumalakas. Ganito ang maging babae sa kasalukuyang panahon.

Daniel Smith in US embassy custody —DILG

September 23, 2008

By Cecille Suerte Felipe
Tuesday, September 23, 2008

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Interior Undersecretary Marius Corpus maintained that there is no basis for the allegation of a lawyer that convicted rapist United States Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith is not in the custody of the US embassy.

Corpus confirmed the statement of Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera that he and other members of the inspection panel checked Smith’s quarters at the US embassy in Manila last Sept. 12.

“He’s there (US Embassy detention cell). I just visited him Sept. 12. He was transferred to a container van and not outside the US embassy. I even have pictures of my last visits,” Corpus told The STAR.

Corpus heads the Philippine government’s inspection panel tasked to conduct regular inspection in the US embassy to check if Smith remains under the embassy’s custody.

Corpus announced last July that Smith, who was convicted in 2006 of raping a Filipina in Subic in 2005, was transferred to a container van because the building where Smith’s cell was located was up for demolition.

The container van where Smith is detained has simple amenities, but it still looks and feels like a detention cell, said Corpus.

Smith was sentenced to 40 years in jail for the rape of a Filipina inside the Subic Bay Freeport on Nov. 1, 2005.

Lawyer Harry Roque had questioned the whereabouts of Smith, citing information from a US embassy official that the soldier had been moved out of the embassy and was staying somewhere in Quezon City. (PhilippineStar)

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My Take:

Pictures as evidence is not strong nowadays, with the Photoshop and other image-editing tools around.  Why the bright, educated, smart Undersecretary, did not employ a video camera to capture his “evidence”, is one smart, educated and bright question indeed.

Editorial Cartoon: womUN

September 19, 2008

Torture Survivor Files Charges vs Perpetrators

September 19, 2008

Survivor of torture and abduction filed administrative, criminal and civil charges against his captors, including retired Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officers Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. and Maj Gen. Juanito Gomez.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 32, September 14-20, 2008

A survivor of torture and abduction filed administrative, criminal and civil charges against his captors, including retired Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officers Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. and Maj Gen. Juanito Gomez.

Raymond Manalo, together with his lawyer Rex Fernandez, filed criminal and administrative cases against his military captors September 12 at the Office of the Ombudsman, and a civil case at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court.

The respondents were accused of kidnapping, arbitrary detention, physical injuries, threats, involuntary servitude, torture, among others.

Administrative complaints for gross misconduct, grave abuse of authority, gross oppression and for acts unbecoming of a public official were also filed.

Other respondents were soldiers of the 24th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and members of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU).

Ordeal

In an interview, Raymond said he and his brother Reynaldo were held captive from Feb. 14, 2006 until their escape on Aug. 13, 2007.

In his sworn statement, Raymond said they were abducted in San Ildefonso, Bulacan, and were detained in three military camps and two safehouses. They were first brought to Fort Magsaysay, Laur, Nueva Ecija before being transferred to Camp Tecson in San Miguel, Bulacan and later in a safehouse in Zambales. They were again transferred to the headquarters of the 24th Infantry Battalion in Limay, Bataan and finally, to another safehouse in Pangasinan where the brothers escaped on Aug. 13.

He also said that he personally saw Palparan participate in the torture of activists.

He said he had long been planning to file charges against the perpetrators. “Ngayon lang ako naka-recover sa trauma inabot namin.” (I have just recovered from the trauma we experienced.)

Raymond said they were subjected to various forms of torture: “Nilulublob sa tubig, minamartilyo ang kamay, hinahampas ng dos-por-dos, iba-ibang klase… Nariyang pasuin ng apoy, buhusan ng mainit na tubig, buhusan ng gasolina, paluin sa likod ng barbed wire o kadena.” (Our heads were forcibly submerged in water, our hands were hit with hammers, we were clubbed with wood 2inches wide by 2 inches thick, we had hot water and gasoline poured on us, we were whipped at the back with barbed wire and chains.)

He said the soldiers were forcing them to admit that they are members of the New People’s Army (NPA). The NPA is a revolutionary armed group under the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

Raymond continued, “Hangga’t hindi nagdurugo, hindi nila kami nilulubayan. Ang iba, di na nila nakayanan ang karahasan” (They did not stop until we bled. Others were not able to withstand the violence.)

Raymond witnessed the torture of two University of the Philippines (UP) students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño inside a military camp. He testified during the hearing of the writ of amparo case filed by the mothers of the two UP students before the 11th Division of the Court of Appeals. The two women and their companion Manuel Merino are still missing up to this day.

He said he wants justice not only for himself but also for other victims of human rights violations.

Erlinda Cadapan, mother of Sherlyn, joined Raymond in the filing of cases. She said, “Maraming involved. Isinawalat ng survivor na marami siyang nakitang dinukot, tinotortyur at tinatratong hindi makatao. Sana makatulong ang Ombudsman sa mga kaanak ng biktima.” (Many are involved. The survivor testified that he saw victims of abductions being tortured and treated inhumanely. I hope the Ombudsman will help the families of the victims.)

Strong case

Raymond’s lawyer Fernandez said that the Office of the Ombudsman should act swiftly on the case. He said that the fact that Raymond was granted the writ of amparo means that the evidence is strong.

The Manalo brothers filed a petition for the writ of amparo on October 24, 2007.  The Court of Appeals (CA) granted their prayer for protection.

Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of Human Rights) secretary general, said that Raymund deserves all the support. “He is courageous. In spite of all odds, even if his enemies are powerful and even if the Ombudsman has a bad record, Raymond is determined to obtain justice.”

Enriquez explained that previous cases filed by victims of human rights abuses before the Ombudsman have not yet been resolved. She cited the cases filed by Lourdes Rubrico and Oscar Leuterio. Both were abducted by state agents in separate incidents. Leuterio also witnessed the torture of Empeño and Cadapan. He also saw the Manalo brothers inside Fort Magsaysay.

Enriquez also mentioned the cases filed by Hacienda Luisita workers and by the victims of the violent dispersal of a rally in October 2006.

Enriquez said, “I hope they will not deny the existing remedies to the victim.”

Raymond said, “Kahit gaano katagal, hindi kami susuko. Ang mahalaga mabigyan ng katarungan ang nangyari sa amin.” (However long this takes, we will not give up. What is important is that we get justice for what was done to us.)  Bulatlat

Police: Wanted MILF commanders may be disguised as women

September 15, 2008

By Abigail Kwok
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 14:21:00 09/15/2008

 

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine National Police (PNP) is eyeing the possibility commanders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) being pursued by government forces in Central Mindanao may disguise themselves as women to slip through security checkpoints and elude capture, an official said on Monday.

Deputy Director General Jesus Verzosa, in an interview, said reports reaching them indicate that Ameril Ombra Kato, Abdullah Macapaar alias Commander Bravo, and Aleem Sulayman Pangalian have been eluding the police and military by wearing the “abaya,” a traditional garb worn by Muslim women that covers the entire body except the eyes.

While Verzosa said the reports were a positive sign and “an indication that they (wanted MILF commanders) are in retreat,” he also stressed that security forces will not be allowed to frisk women wearing abayas.

But he said police will be tightening security.

Verzosa also said he was releasing the information about the allegedly disguised MILF commander to “encourage” the public “with the P25-million reward” into turning in the wanted rebels.

===========

My Take:

The PNP is getting lazy again.  This kind of pronouncing their quarry’s supposed disguise is an act of laziness.  They wanted everybody to be alerted and do the job they are supposed to be doing (given the fact that we, this country’s taxpayer, is paying them do that).

This lazy act though will imprint a negative connotation to women in the area, especially the Muslim women.  They will be subjected to abuses now with the excuse of making sure they’re women, and not the P20-M the military and others are looking for.

Oral argument on Subic rapist’s detention at SC Sept. 19

September 10, 2008

Nicole’s lawyer worried about corruption in CA

By Veronica Uy
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 14:52:00 09/09/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court will be hearing the oral argument on a case on the transfer and detention of convicted rapist Daniel Smith on September 19, the lawyer of the American Marine’s victim said.

At the same time, Evalyn Ursua, the lawyer of the victim known publicly only as Nicole, acknowledged being worried about the unfolding bribery scandal at the Court of Appeals, where Smith’s appeal of his conviction for the November 1, 2005 rape at the Subic Bay Freeport is pending.

Ursua said the high court will hear the motion they filed to cite the government in contempt for whisking Smith out of the Makati City jail in December 2006, even before a court could decide on the issue, and transferring him to the American embassy in Manila, where he continues to be detained.

But Smith’s lawyer, Jose Justiniano, said the rape convict is not a party to the Supreme Court case, which is between Ursua and the Office of the Solicitor General. “We are a minor party there, if not a simple observer,” he said.

Ursua said the continuing bribery scandal at the Court of Appeals worried them because the alleged pressure the executive branch of government allegedly brings to bear on appellate judges is “common knowledge.”

“We are worried that, because of the Meralco case, it is not unlikely that it could happen here, given the interest in this case, which involves the United States and the Visiting Forces Agreement,” she said.

Ursua was referring to the petition filed by the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) against a cease and desist order (CDO) handed down by the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) on the election of the power firm’s board earlier this year.

The CDO had been sought by the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) as part of a bid to wrest control of Meralco.

The case has seen appellate justices accusing each other of corruption amid allegations of bribe offers from either Meralco or the government and even personal calls from government officials asking for a decision in favor of GSIS.

The Supreme Court created a panel of retired justices who investigated the allegations and are expected to release its findings soon.

“We are worried. We can only do our work, the rest is up to the process and the justices,” Ursua said even as she pointed out that the issue of Smith’s conviction and detention has gone beyond what he did to Nicole.

“To many people, Nicole is just collateral damage. In the context of Mindanao, where there is focus on the presence of US troops, the stakes have become higher,” she said.

Ursua recalled that Nicole testified that American troops have some form of base in the Zamboanga military camp where her mother ran a canteen.

“Remember, she talked in the beginning of her testimony about the US camp, about how they have always been there. That’s why it’s part of her life seeing American soldiers. They’re not just visiting,” she said.

Justiniano and Ursua both said that all pleadings have been submitted to the Court of Appeals since October last year. They said they are only awaiting the decision, which could either affirm the guilty conviction or reverse it.

===================

My Take:

The way the SC handled the CA controversy, and the kind of sentence they awarded to the guilty justices, Nicole’s camp has every right to be suspicious of whatever decision they’ get from the CA, specially if its against their crusade.

Not the Same as Being Equal

September 2, 2008

Violence against women is “epidemic.” Eighty-seven percent of women complain of domestic violence. Half of those cases involve sexual violence. Sixty percent of marriages are still forced. Fifty-seven percent of brides are still under the legal age of 16. What would you call this massive use of force, complete with torture, if not “war” – an ongoing war against women.

BY ANN JONES
Truthout/TomDispatch.com
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 30, August 31-September 6, 2008

urging in Afghanistan: Too Much, Too Late?

Despite George W. Bush’s claim that he’s “truly not that concerned” about Osama bin Laden, the administration is erecting 10 “Wanted” billboards in Afghanistan, offering rewards of $25 million for bin Laden, $10 million for Taliban leader Mullah Omar, and $1 million for Adam Gadahn, an American member of Al Qaeda, now listed as a “top terrorist.” That’s 10 nice, big, literal signs that the administration is waking up, only seven years after 9/11 and the American “victory” that followed, to its “forgotten war.”

When I wrote this piece for TomDispatch in February 2007, I’d been working intermittently since 2002 with women in Afghanistan – women the Bush administration claimed to have “liberated” by that victory. In all those years, despite some dramatic changes on paper, the real lives of most Afghan women didn’t change a bit, and many actually worsened thanks to the residual widespread infection of men’s minds by germs of Taliban “thought.” Today, Afghanistan is the only country in the world where women outdo men when it comes to suicide.

To transfer those changes from paper to the people, “victory” in Afghanistan should have been followed by the deployment of troops in sufficient numbers to ensure security. Securing the countryside might have enabled the Karzai government installed in the Afghan capital, Kabul, to extend its authority while international humanitarian organizations helped Afghans rebuild their country. As everyone knows, of course, that’s hardly what happened.

Now, a promised new American surge in Afghanistan threatens to be too much, too late. Bent on victory again, Americans are easily manipulated by false information to call in air strikes and wipe out whole villages – men, women, and children – even with no enemy in sight. (In 2007 alone, the U.S. dropped about a million pounds of bombs on the Afghan countryside.) Just the other day, masses of men took to the streets to protest the death of 95 civilians, including 19 women and 60 children. Masses of men once grateful to the U.S. for overthrowing the Taliban, and hopeful of American help in rebuilding the country, are now turning against the Bush administration’s ever more lethal occupation.

You don’t see women among the protesters because they are at home behind closed doors, confined, just as they were before the American “liberation.”

The war against the Taliban took a brief intermission after that American “victory,” but the war against women went on without interruption. Earlier this year Womankind Worldwide, a British nongovernmental organization, issued a report entitled “Taking Stock: Afghan Women and Girls Seven Years On.” The news? Violence against women is “epidemic.” Eighty-seven percent of women complain of domestic violence. Half of those cases involve sexual violence. Sixty percent of marriages are still forced. Fifty-seven percent of brides are still under the legal age of 16. What would you call this massive use of force, complete with torture, if not “war” – an ongoing war against women.

The current state of Afghanistan’s female parliamentarians reveals a lot about the real conditions of women in that country. Many of them have proven to be merely the servants of the warlords who paid for their election campaigns. On the other hand, a few, the independent outspoken ones working for change, come under relentless attack.

Malalai Joya, who famously (and rightly) denounced some of her colleagues as war criminals, was expelled and threatened with death. Shukria Barakzai, injured in a suicide bombing last November that killed six other parliamentarians, has now earned a suicide bomber of her own. She complained recently that while Parliament has sent her letters for the past three months informing her that she is the potential target of a suicide bomber, it hasn’t offered to protect her. When her complaint reached the internet, an Afghan man (apparently safe in Canada) responded that she should stay home and raise sons who could “do something” for Afghanistan. He called her a “cowhead.” That may be one step up from “cow,” but it’s still a long way from human being. Ann Jones, August 2008

———————

Born in Afghanistan but raised in the United States, like many in the worldwide Afghan Diaspora, Manizha Naderi is devoted to helping her homeland. For years she worked with Women for Afghan Women, a New York based organization serving Afghan women wherever they may be. Last fall, she returned to Kabul, the capital, to try to create a Family Guidance Center. Its goal was to rescue women – and their families – from homemade violence. It’s tough work. After three decades of almost constant warfare, most citizens are programmed to answer the slightest challenge with violence. In Afghanistan it’s the default response.

Manizha Naderi has been sizing up the problem in the capital and last week she sent me a copy of her report. A key passage went like this:

“During the past year, a rash of reports on the situation of women in Afghanistan has been issued by Afghan governmental agencies and by foreign and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that claim a particular interest in women’s rights or in Afghanistan or both. More reports are in the offing. What has sparked them is the dire situation of women in the country, the systematic violations of their human rights, and the failure of concerned parties to achieve significant improvements by providing women with legal protections rooted in a capable, honest, and stable judiciary system, education and employment opportunities, safety from violence, much of it savage, and protection from hidebound customs originating in the conviction that women are the property of men.”

I’d hoped for better news. Instead, her report brought back so many things I’d seen for myself during the last five years spent, off and on, in her country.

———————

Last year in Herat, as I was walking with an Afghan colleague to a meeting on women’s rights, I spotted an ice cream vendor in the hot, dusty street. I rushed ahead and returned with two cones of lemony ice. I held one out to my friend. “Forgive me,” she said. “I can’t.” She was wearing a burqa.

t was a stupid mistake. I’d been in Afghanistan a long time, in the company every day of women encased from head to toe in pleated polyester body bags. Occasionally I put one on myself, just to get the feel of being stifled in the sweaty sack, blind behind the mesh eye mask. I’d watched women trip on their burqas and fall. I’d watched women collide with cars they couldn’t see. I knew a woman badly burned when her burqa caught fire. I knew another who suffered a near-fatal skull fracture when her burqa snagged in a taxi door and slammed her to the pavement as the vehicle sped away. But I’d never before noted this fact: it is not possible for a woman wearing a burqa to eat an ice cream cone.

e gave the cones away to passing children and laughed about it, but to me it was the saddest thing.

———————

Ever since the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001, George W. Bush has boasted of “liberating” Afghan women from the Taliban and the burqa. His wife Laura, after a publicity junket to Afghanistan in 2005, appeared on Jay Leno’s show to say that she hadn’t seen a single woman wearing a burqa.

ut these are the sorts of wildly optimistic self-delusions that have made Bush notorious. His wife, whose visit to Afghanistan lasted almost six hours, spent much of that time at the American air base and none of it in the Afghan streets where most women, to this day, go about in big blue bags.

It’s true that after the fall of the Taliban lots of women in the capital went back to work in schools, hospitals, and government ministries, while others found better paying jobs with international humanitarian agencies. In 2005, thanks to a quota system imposed by the international community, women took 27% of the seats in the lower house of the new parliament, a greater percentage than women enjoy in most Western legislatures, including our own. Yet these hopeful developments are misleading.

The fact is that the “liberation” of Afghan women is mostly theoretical. The Afghan Constitution adopted in 2004 declares that “The Citizens of Afghanistan – whether man or woman – have equal Rights and Duties before the Law.” But what law? The judicial system – ultra-conservative, inadequate, incompetent, and notoriously corrupt – usually bases decisions on idiosyncratic interpretations of Islamic Sharia, tribal customary codes, or simple bribery. And legal “scholars” instruct women that having “equal Rights and Duties” is not the same as being equal to men.

Post-Taliban Afghanistan, under President Hamid Karzai, also ratified key international agreements on human rights: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Treaty of Civil and Political Rights, and CEDAW: the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Like the Constitution, these essential documents provide a foundation for realizing the human rights of women.

But building on that paper foundation – amid poverty, illiteracy, misogyny, and ongoing warfare – is something else again.

That’s why, for the great majority of Afghan women, life has scarcely changed at all. That’s why even an educated and informed leader like my colleague, on her way to a UN agency to work on women’s rights, is still unable to eat an ice cream cone.

———————

For most Afghan women the burqa is the least of their problems.

Afghanistan is just about the poorest country in the world. Only Burkina Faso and Niger sometimes get worse ratings. After nearly three decades of warfare and another of drought, millions of Afghans are without safe water or sanitation or electricity, even in the capital city. Millions are without adequate food and nutrition. Millions have access only to the most rudimentary health care, or none at all.

Diseases such as TB and polio, long eradicated in most of the world, flourish here. They hit women and children hard. One in four children dies before the age of five, mostly from preventable illnesses such as cholera and diarrhea. Half of all women of childbearing age who die do so in childbirth, giving Afghanistan one of the highest maternal death rates in the world. Average life expectancy hovers around 42 years.

Notice that we’re still talking women’s rights here: the fundamental economic and social rights that belong to all human beings.
There are other grim statistics. About 85% of Afghan women are illiterate. About 95% are routinely subjected to violence in the home. And the home is where most Afghan women in rural areas, and many in cities, are still customarily confined. Public space and public life belong almost exclusively to men. President Karzai heads the country while his wife, a qualified gynecologist with needed skills, stays at home.
These facts are well known. During more than five years of Western occupation, they haven’t changed.

Afghan women and girls are, by custom and practice, the property of men. They may be traded and sold like any commodity. Although Afghan law sets the minimum marriageable age for girls at sixteen, girls as young as eight or nine are commonly sold into marriage. Women doctors in Kabul maternity hospitals describe terrible life-threatening “wedding night” injuries that husbands inflict on child brides. In the countryside, far from medical help, such girls die.

Under the tribal code of the Pashtuns, the dominant ethnic group, men customarily hand over women and girls – surplus sisters or widows, daughters or nieces – to other men to make amends for some offense or to pay off some indebtedness, often to a drug lord. To Pashtuns the trade-off is a means of maintaining “justice” and social harmony, but international human rights observers define what happens to the women and girls used in such “conflict resolution” as “slavery.”

Given the rigid confinement of women, a surprising number try to escape. But any woman on her own outside the home is assumed to be guilty of the crime of “zina” – engaging in sexual activity. That’s why “running away” is itself a crime. One crime presupposes the other.
When she is caught, as most runaways are, she may be taken to jail for an indefinite term or returned to her husband or father or brothers who may then murder her to restore the family honor.

The same thing happens to a rape victim, force being no excuse for sexual contact – unless she is married to the man who raped her. In that case, she can be raped as often as he likes.

In Kabul, where women and girls move about more freely, many are snatched by traffickers and sold into sexual slavery. The traffickers are seldom pursued or punished because once a girl is abducted she is as good as dead anyway, even to loving parents bound by the code of honor. The weeping mother of a kidnapped teenage girl once told me, “I pray she does not come back because my husband will have to kill her.”

Many a girl kills herself. To escape beatings or sexual abuse or forced marriage. To escape prison or honor killing, if she’s been seduced or raped or falsely accused. To escape life, if she’s been forbidden to marry the man she would choose for herself.

Suicide also brings dishonor, so families cover it up. Only when city girls try to kill themselves by setting themselves on fire do their cases become known, for if they do not die at once, they may be taken to hospital. In 2003, scores of cases of self-immolation were reported in the city of Herat; the following year, as many were recorded in Kabul. Although such incidents are notoriously underreported, during the past year 150 cases were noted in western Afghanistan, 197 in Herat, and at least 34 in the south.

The customary codes and traditional practices that made life unbearable for these burned girls predate the Taliban, and they remain in force today, side by side with the new constitution and international documents that speak of women’s rights.

Tune in to a Kabul television station and you’ll see evidence that Afghan women are poised at a particularly schizophrenic moment in their history. Watching televised parliamentary sessions, you’ll see women who not only sit side by side with men – a dangerous, generally forbidden proximity – but actually rise to argue with them. Yet who can forget poor murdered Shaima, the lively, youthful presenter of a popular TV chat show for young people? Her father and brother killed her, or so men and women say approvingly, because they found her job shameful. Mullahs and public officials issue edicts from time to time condemning women on television, or television itself.

———————

Many people believe the key to improving life for women, and all Afghans, is education, particularly because so many among Afghanistan’s educated elite left the country during its decades of wars. So the international community invests in education projects – building schools, printing textbooks, teaching teachers, organizing literacy classes for women – and the Bush administration in particular boasts that five million children now go to school.

ut that’s fewer than half the kids of school age, and less than a third of the girls. The highest enrollments are in cities ¬ñ 85% of children in Kabul – while, in the Pashtun south, enrollments drop below 20% overall and near zero for girls. More than half the students enrolled in school live in Kabul and its environs, yet even there an estimated 60,000 children are not in school, but in the streets, working as vendors, trash-pickers, beggars, or thieves.

None of this is new. For a century, Afghan rulers – from kings to communists – have tried to unveil women and advance education. In the 1970s and 1980s, many women in the capital went about freely, without veils. They worked in offices, schools, hospitals. They went to university and became doctors, nurses, teachers, judges, engineers. They drove their own cars. They wore Western fashions and traveled abroad. But when Kabul’s communists called for universal education throughout the country, provincial conservatives opposed to educating women rebelled.

Afghan women of the Kabul elite haven’t yet caught up to where they were thirty-five years ago. But once again ultra-conservatives are up in arms. This time it’s the Taliban, back in force throughout the southern half of the country. Among their tactics: blowing up or burning schools (150 in 2005, 198 in 2006) and murdering teachers, especially women who teach girls. UNICEF estimates that in four southern provinces more than half the schools – 380 out of 748 – no longer provide any education at all. Last September the Taliban shot down the middle-aged woman who headed the provincial office for women’s affairs in Kandahar. A few brave colleagues went back to the office in body armor, knowing it would not save them. Now, in the southern provinces – more than half the country – women and girls stay home.

I blame George W. Bush, the “liberator” who looked the other way. In 2001, the United States military claimed responsibility for these provinces, the heart of Taliban country; but diverted to adventures in the oilfields of Iraq, it failed for five years to provide the security international humanitarians needed to do the promised work of reconstruction. Afghans grew discouraged. Last summer, when the U.S. handed the job to NATO, British and Canadian “peacekeepers” walked right into war with the resurgent Taliban. By year’s end, more than 4,000 Afghans were dead – Taliban, “suspected” insurgents, and civilians. Speaking recently of dead women and children – trapped between U.S. bombers and NATO troops on the one hand and Taliban forces backed (unofficially) by Pakistan on the other – President Karzai began to weep.

It’s winter in Afghanistan now. No time to make war. But come spring, the Taliban promise a new offensive to throw out Karzai and foreign invaders. The British commander of NATO forces has already warned: “We could actually fail here.”
He also advised a British reporter that Westerners shouldn’t even mention women’s rights when more important things are at stake. As if security is not a woman’s right. And peace.

Come spring, Afghan women could lose it all.

——-

Writer/photographer Ann Jones is now working as a volunteer with the Gender-Based Violence unit of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) on “A Global Crescendo: Women’s Voices from Conflict Zones,” the special women’s advocacy project she described in “Me, I’m a Camera,” a post from war-torn Africa for TomDispatch. Jones was a humanitarian aid worker in Afghanistan periodically from 2002 to 2006, and is the author of “Kabul in Winter: Life Without Peace in Afghanistan.” The New York Times described her book as “a work of impassioned reportage … eloquent and persuasive.” That’s journalese for: What she saw in Afghanistan really made her mad. To view Jones’s photos of Afghan women, visit her website.

Cordi women leaders attest to hunger situation

August 27, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — “How are we going to feed our children?” This is the question an ordinary mother in the Cordillera region raises.

In the latest Innabuyog Regional Council Meeting on August 15-16, 2008, hunger was seen looming for ordinary Cordillera women.

The urgent issue that the Regional Council discussed is hunger and poverty. According to Innabuyog Chairperson Vernie Yocogan-Diano, Cordillera women play a big role in the food assurance of their families and communities—from ensuring the traditional seeds to the planting and harvesting and finding remedies along with their husbands, to ensure food on the family table and other basic needs like education and health.

Difficult times

“With intensifying hunger and poverty not just in rural but also in urban areas, Cordillera women are in in more difficult times searching for food resources. The subsistence agricultural production, which used to be sustainable and self-sufficient is taken over by cash economy. Families have to produce cash for commodities and other needs like education and health,” said Diano.

Diano also said with the concoction of the economic crisis, imperialist plunder, militarization and even climate change, food and livelihood are becoming scarce in the region making Cordillera indigenous women search for alternative ways to provide for their families.

Other members of the council confirmed that rice cropping and vegetable farming entail high inputs. Expensive fertilizers and pesticides, high rent of equipment and land, and even expensive transport for products leave them with almost nothing. Imported vegetables and rice flooding local market displace local produce.

Localized rice crisis

Manang Appol explained that rice harvest in Mompolia, Hingyon in Ifugao used to suffice but now, what they would keep for their own consumption, they now sell in the market to have the much needed cash.

They sell the native rice from P50 a kilo or a bit higher depending on the quality to enable them to buy NFA rice, which they buy for P25 a kilo. Supply is limited to three to five kilos and a family has to spend almost a day queueing.

Even professionals are seen in long queues in the town centers for the cheaper NFA rice. Commercial rice now sells at P37 or more.

With the dire need for cash to cope with the economic crisis, traditional food sources are now grown and harvested for the market.

Diano said it is also evident that with today’s economic inflation affecting the prices of commodities and services, the Cordillerans are now faced with the challenge to earn even more than what was supposed to be enough.

In 2007, Cordillera was namong provinces with highest malnutrition rates in the country. All over Cordillera, children are noted to lack the necessary nutritional support.

“Worse, efforts from the government such as feeding and medical programs to the Cordilleran children are inefficient, unsustainable and only serve as showcase for the government’s hunger mitigation program,” added Diano.

Mining and militarization

The Innabuyog RC meeting also showed that mining and militarization in areas like Abra, Kalinga and Apayao also contribute to the worsening hunger situation of Cordillera women and children.

According to Diano, the Lepanto mines continue to poison agricultural and food resources in Mankayan, Benguet, Ilocos and Abra. Land and river poisonong, siltation and erosion are seen to happen in areas where mining exploration is being conducted like Baay-Licuan in Abra, Kalinga and Apayao.

Support systems

Initially, Innabuyog leaders view the seed and fertilizer subsidy as benefiting more the seed and fertilizer traders more than the ordinary or poor farmer. According to them discount coupons are not available to all poor farmers and so far the Department of Agriculture (DA) has indicated a limit on the supply that is discounted.

The women leaders believe that the market-driven support could hardly be sustained by the poor farmers. They said it would also be a source of corruption in he government and ultimately the agricultural supply business would be the beneficiary and not the poor farmers.

The leaders also identified other problems they face like unemployment and the economic dislocation or out-migration of residents due to militarization especially in areas applied for mining projects.

Innabuyog, through support institutions like the Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Center (CWEARC), monitor and hold action research discussions on the prevailing hunger and poverty of indigenous women in the Cordillera.

The yearly Regional Council meeting of Innabuyog gathers its leaders from the different provinces and sectors of the Cordillera Region. They meet for updates, analysis and action planning to respond to the current situation of ordinary indigenous women in the region. # Innabuyog Release

Alam Nyo Ba Mga Mare?: Ang ‘Ber months’ at ang pagtaas ng presyo ng mga bilihin

August 25, 2008

Gert Ranjo-Libang

MGA mare, matatapos na ang Agosto at papasok na ang “Ber months”. Ibig sabihin papalapit na ang pasko at dahil dito papataas na naman ng presyo ng mga bilihin. Di ba’t taun-taon namang nangyayari ang ganito. Ang kaibhan nga lang ay ngayong taon, mangyayari ang pagtaas ng presyo dahil magpapasko sa gitna ng walang humpay nang na pagtaas ng presyo ng bilihin. Lalo pa’t sunud-sunod rin ang naging pagtaas ng presyo ng langis.

Ang nakakainis, mga mare, nang bumaba ang presyo ng langis, hindi naman bumaba ang presyo ng bilihin. Ang daya, ‘di ba? Kaya naman patuloy ang laban para tanggalin ang Value-Added Tax sa mga batayang bilihin at serbisyo at tayong kababaihan ang dapat nangunguna dito.

Kung natatandaan ninyo, taong 1987 nang unang isabatas ang VAT, 10 porsiyentong buwis na ipinapataw sa iba’t ibang produkto at serbisyo at sa bawat bahagdan o antas ng produksiyon ng mga produkto. Ang masaklap, pinayagan ng batas na ito na ipasa sa mga mamimimili ang VAT. Bahagi ito ng imposisyon ng International Monetary Fund at World Bank upang maseguro nila na may kikitain ang gobyerno para pambayad utang nito.

Sa kabila ng maraming pagbatikos sa VAT, tinaasan pa ang VAT, ginawang 12% at mula 1998-2002 pinalawak ang saklaw nito. Isinama na ang mga produktong petrolyo, kuryente at maging serbisyong medikal at ligal sa ipinasang batas na EVAT at RVAT noong 2005.

Nagkakandakuba na ang kababaihan sa pagpasan ng bigat ng taas ng presyo ng bilihin samantalang nananatiling walang kabuhayan o kapos ang kita ng pamilyang Pilipino. Ayon nga sa Ibon Foundation, sa Metro Manila P382 lamang ang minimum wage – 38 porsiyento lamang ito ng P871 na kailangan ng isang pamilya kada araw para mabuhay.

Kaya naman kagyat ang kagustuhan ng kababaihan at mamamayang Pilipino na tanggalin ang VAT sa mga bilihin at utilidad. Pero ang sabi ng gobyerno, hindi daw maaaring alisin ang VAT dahil dito kinukuha ang panlipunang serbisyo kaya malaki ang pakinabang dito ng maliliit na tao.

Kasinungalingan, iyan ang masasabi natin sa paliwanag na ito ng gobyerno. Mga mare, mismong Department of Finance (DopF) ang nagsabing samantalang may inaasahang P100 bilyong dagdag na kita pa sa VAT ngayong taon, P13 bilyong lamang ang inilalaan sa serbisyong panlipunan. Dehadong-dehado tayo! Para bang nagbayad tayo ng P100 para sa isang bagay na P13 lang pala ang halaga.

At ayaw din ipaalam ng DoF sa publiko ang buong pinaglalaanan ng gobyerno sa kita ng VAT. Hindi malayong sa pagbabayad ng utang ng goberyerno napupunta ang malaking porsyento ng kita ng VAT. Pambayad utang sa mga proyektong batbat ng korupsiyon. Ibig sabihin, maaaring malaking bahagi ng ibinabayad nating VAT sa bawat ating bilhin ang ipinambabayad utang sa mga kinurakot ng pulitiko.

Kaya, mga mare, dapat sabay-sabat nating sigaw “Tanggalin ang VAT!”(PinoyWeekly)

Gabriela wants RVAT scrapped

August 19, 2008

QUEZON CITY — Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) Representative Liza Maza last week criticized the Arroyo administration and called for the immediate passage of bills removing Value Added Tax (VAT) on oil and the repeal of Reformed Value Added Tax (RVAT).

Maza also called for price intervention from the Arroyo government with runaway inflation, now at 12.2%, hitting the poor hardest.

According to Maza, the rising inflation rate brought about by an unending increase in food prices betrays the failure of the so-called ‘Katas ng VAT’ poverty alleviation measures that the Arroyo has pompously flaunted in the State of the Nation Address (SONA).

“This calls for drastic reforms in policy and governance that will bring food prices to levels that our people can afford. We believe the immediate removal of the 12% VAT is in order,” said Maza.

The Gabriela solon noted that the lowest-income families, who spend most of their meager income for food, suffer most from the government’s economic mismanagement.

“President Arroyo boasts of having women and children line up for hours for the cheap rice she provides, subsidies and doleouts but the grim reality is: Wala nang pagkain sa mga hapag kainan!” (There is no more to eat on the dining table.)

Government statistics in fact note that inflation was highest in rice at 50 % in July from 43% in June; corn, 40.6% from 34.3%; fruits and vegetables, 13.8 %from 12.5 %.

“All in all, food inflation was at 18.6 in July from 17.4% in June,” said Maza.

A slowdown in the increase in the prices of consumer products would be possible should the government immediately suspend if not repeal the VAT outright, Maza added as she called on other congress representatives to immediately act on House Bill 3458 removing the 12% VAT on oil products and HB 3433 to repeal the RVAT, both filed by Gabriela Women’s Party representatives.

Both Maza and Luz Ilagan have likewise co-authored HB 1724 to repeal the Oil Deregulation Law. # GWP Release

Women condemn ‘Vitameal’

August 19, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — A new feeding program has come to provinces in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) that aims to to correct any nutrient deficiencies and thereby promote healthy growth and development. A women’s group, however, criticized it.

Named “Vitameal,” it is supposedly a new hope for nutritionally challenged children in the Cordilleras. This school year, provinces in CAR started receiving their rations of Vitameal thru day care and Grade One pupils.

At the Innabuyog regional council meet last August 15, members from all around the region had raised their qualms about the product.

“Mapait. Medyo sweet and sour. Lasang betsin. Ayaw kainin ng mga bata, kaya kailangan pa naming gumastos para sa ihahalo namin para kainin nila,” (It tastes bitter, with a hint of sweet and sour and it also tastes of monosodium glutamate. The children do not like it. We have to buy additional ingredients for them to eat it) said Estrell Balutoc of Innabuyog – Abra

Carol Bagyan of Innabuyog – Kalinga said, “Palitan kaming mga magulang ng pagluto. Pakukuluan namin at hahaluan ng iba-ibang sangkap.” (Paarents take turns cooking. We boil it and add in different ingredients)

Parents are enforced to add supplemental ingredients to the Vitameal since children do not seem to favor its taste. “Nagdadagdag pa kami ng malagkit, asukal, tsokolate, para kainin ng mga bata yung Vitameal,” (We have to add in glutinous rice, sugar, cocoa, just so the kids would eat this Vitameal”) added Bagyan.

Parents are suspicious of this Vitameal program as the servings given to the children were without a decent packaging. Not even a label for parents to be informed of its ingredients. “Natatakot kami at baka may GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) iyan.” (We fear it may contain GMOs) said Zenaida Hangdaan of Innabuyog – Ifugao

Parents also claimed that upon asking the teachers in charge of the Vitameal’s distribution of its ingredients and the nutrients that their children should be able to absorb from it, the teachers responded that they did not know exactly what this contain.

“The whole nation is stricken by hunger and poverty whether Malacañang accepts it or not” says Innabuyog Chairperson Vernie Yocogan- Diano.

“Her hunger mitigation programs are actually just dole outs that attempt to sugarcoat the worsening poverty. Her feeding program does not even reach the poorest of the poor, who are in most need of help. This is just another opportunity for graft and corruption to take place,” she added.

Innabuyog states that what should be pursued are long-term policies toward genuine agrarian reform and agricultural development, job creation and a national policy for health care and education. # Myko Chiong(NorthernDispatch)

Women’s Front: The UNDRIP in the IP women’s world

August 19, 2008

By INNABUYOG-GABRIELA

Nature and culture are the two pillars that define the lives of the indigenous peoples all over the world. Nature is their wealth and culture their identity. Nature has given the indigenous peoples the land, food, shelter, as well as their medicine. Centuries have passed, the indigenous peoples were able to maintain their heritage that makes them distinct from the growing modernity.

With today’s modern technology and the gaining popularity of consumerism, nature is in danger. While the rest of the world live in material convenience, the indigenous people’s home is threatened.

Imperialism caters to the growing demand of consumers and the multi-national corporation’s greed, are factors of the abuse and destruction of nature to extract its resources. Mining, logging, and even industrialization contribute to the devastation of the environment which the IP call home.

With the destruction and the privatization of nature, a vital part of the IP life is most affected. Food and food resources are affected.

In the countryside of Thailand, due to large mining operation rice fields are dwindling and bodies of water contaminated with high amounts of cyanide. Immediately, rice crop is trimmed down and their aquatic resources affected as well.

As a catch basin of several waters in Asia, Bangladesh used to be fertile. At present, due to the construction of mega-dams in countries like China, the flow of water towards Bangladesh and its irrigation in the rice fields are affected.

Large coal mining has poisoned the soil making it impossible to till.

In the Philippines, industries and mining are accompanied with militarization in the countryside. Projects in the Philippines are initiated with the stationing of armed military forces to antagonize and pacify any resistance from residents.

In the recent months, we are informed about the militarization in a town in Abra, Philippines which resulted in the bombardment of communities, including rice fields, leaving the locals without food sources.

With the entry of large corporations in these IP villages to mine or to log, residents are somehow forced to leave their homes. The degradation of their environment or the forced evacuation are resulting from the large corporate operations. With no other jobs to rely on and no nature at hand to depend upon, the relocation of IPs also means ethnocide.

They are removed from their homes which provided them the resources to build their houses and the land and water that provide them food. With this, indigenous women and children suffer most. They are most vulnerable. Wives, with their husbands, are in dire situation of having to find shelter and alternative sources for food. Children are stripped away from the environment that should have nourished them like the generations before them.

Today, the indigenous peoples have a safety net to fall on. After decades of lobbying, the United Nations finally adopted the new laws suited for the protection of the indigenous people from exploitation. The United nations Declaration on the rights of the Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) has provisions to respect, protect and preserve the unique culture and the special needs of the indigenous peoples. As of Article 26 of the UNDRIP states, the indigenous peoples have the right to land, territory and its resources. And as follows, the right to the development of this land however the IP group pleases.

From the recent Asia Action Plan for the Promotion and Implementation of UNDRIP, programs were laid down for the continuity and assurance of the implementation of the UNDRIP. Indigenous women, can and should play a big role in this programs.

IP women can take part in making sure that new information is passed within their community as well as reach out to other IP groups. IP women can empower themselves through more knowledge and sharing it with their peers. IP women can also take part in the consultations within their communities as to how to implement projects efficiently.

As women, they can also have the power to bind and strengthen the indigenous community. Their courage is also resilient to be used to lobby for the passing of laws for the protection of plants and other resources located in their territories. A woman’s understanding of the struggle to provide for their families’ survival gives a better voice in this arena. IP women can also take part on the studies on their lands and territories and how large economic development on IP lands.

The indigenous peoples in these lands are the only ones sensitive enough to know what shall remain enough to conserve their territories. IP women are also essential in ensuring that the State provides them the necessary subsidy to develop their communities. The UNDRIP says that States have the responsibility in providing the IP communities financial and technical assistance to develop their land.

As women in the community, they are also endowed with the responsibility to remain watchdogs of the exploitation and neglect of the implementation of the UNDRIP. Over the course of history of the indigenous peoples, the women in the IP community are known to be at the forefront of protest and mobilizations against large destructive corporations.

IP women in the Cordillera remain vigilant against the abuses of the outside community against them. Large dams and mining corporations were once faced by Cordillera women. In other parts of the world, the case is the same as IP women braved large equipments to battle large company aggression. Their bodies might be weaker than those of men, but sure enough, their voice and courage surpass the limitations they are given.

Unfortunately, these laws are still susceptible to abuse or neglect. To ensure the continuous implementation of these laws, each one in the IP community has to take on the task of the continuity of the implementation of these laws. Indigenous women have an equal share of this responsibility.

Armed with provisions from the UNDRIP, IP women now can assert themselves legally as rightful owners of their ancestral domain along with their families. It is easier to assert their rights on the land and its resources. Mothers are no longer burdened with the worry of losing the land to cultivate food for their children. Children can continue inheriting the richness of the nature and their culture. Armed with the provisions of the UNDRIP and the drive for self-determination, IP women with the rest of the IP community is equipped for the preservation of their culture. #(NorthernDispatch)

August 17, 2008

Why Soldiers Rape

Culture of misogyny, illegal occupation, fuel sexual violence in military

By HELEN BENEDICT

In These Times
AUGUST 13, 2008
http://www.intheset imes.com/ article/3848/

An alarming number of women soldiers are being sexually abused by their comrades-in- arms, both at war and at home. This fact has received a fair amount of attention lately from researchers and the press – and deservedly so.

But the attention always focuses on the women: where they were when assaulted, their relations with the
assailant, the effects on their mental health and careers, whether they are being adequately helped, and
so on. That discussion, as valuable as it is, misses a fundamental point. To understand military sexual
assault, let alone know how to stop it, we must focus on the perpetrators. We need to ask: Why do soldiers
rape?

Rape in civilian life is already unacceptably common.  One in six women is raped or sexually assaulted in her
lifetime, according to the National Institute of Justice, a number so high it should be considered an epidemic.

In the military, however, the situation is even worse.  Rape is almost twice as frequent as it is among civilians, especially in wartime. Soldiers are taught to regard one another as family, so military rape resembles incest. And most of the soldiers who rape are older and of higher rank than their victims, so are taking advantage of their authority to attack the very people they are supposed to protect.

Department of Defense reports show that nearly 90 percent of rape victims in the Army are junior-ranking women, whose average age is 21, while most of the assailants are non-commissioned officers or junior men,  whose average age is 28.

This sexual violence persists in spite of strict laws against rape in the military and a concerted Pentagon effort in 2005 to reform procedures for reporting the crime. Unfortunately, neither the press nor the many teams of psychologists and sociologists who study veterans ever seem to ask why.

The answer appears to lie in a confluence of military culture, the psychology of the assailants and the nature of war.

Two seminal studies have examined military culture and its attitudes toward women: one by Duke University Law Professor Madeline Morris in 1996, which was presented in the paper “By Force of Arms: Rape, War, and Military Culture” and published in Duke Law Journal; and the other by University of California professor and folklorist Carol Burke in 2004 and explained in her book, Camp All-American, Hanoi Jane and the High-And- Tight: Gender, Folklore and Changing Military Culture (Beacon Press). Both authors found that military culture is more misogynistic than even many critics of the military would suspect. Sometimes this misogyny stems from competition and sometimes from resentment, but it lies at the root of why soldiers rape.

One recent Iraq War veteran reflected this misogyny when he described his Marine Corp training for a collection of soldiers’ works called Warrior Writers, published by Iraq Veterans Against the War in 2008:

The [Drill Instructor's] nightly homiletic speeches, full of an unabashed hatred of women, were part of the second phase of boot camp: the process of rebuilding recruits into Marines.

Morris and Burke both show that military language reveals this “unabashed hatred of women” all the time. Even with a force that is now 14 percent female, and with rules that prohibit drill instructors from using racial epithets and curses, those same instructors still routinely denigrate recruits by calling them “pussy,” “girl,” “bitch,” “lady” and “dyke.” The everyday speech of soldiers is still riddled with sexist insults.

Soldiers still openly peruse pornography that humiliates women. (Pornography is officially banned in the military, but is easily available to soldiers through the mail and from civilian sources, and there is a significant correlation between pornography circulation and rape rates, according to Duke’s Morris.) And military men still sing the misogynist rhymes that have been around for decades. For example, Burke’s book cites this Naval Academy chant: Who can take a chainsaw Cut the bitch in two Fuck the bottom half And give the upper half to you?

The message in all these insults is that women have no business trying to be soldiers. In 2007, Sgt. Sarah Scully of the Army’s 8th Military Police Brigade wrote to me in an e-mail from Kuwait, where she was serving: “In the Army, any sign that you are a woman means you are automatically ridiculed and treated as inferior.”

Army Spc. Mickiela Montoya, who was in Iraq for 11 months from 2005-2006, put it another way: “There are only three things the guys let you be if you’re a girl in the military: a bitch, a ho or a dyke. One guy told me he thinks the military sends women over to give the guys eye candy to keep them sane. He told me in Vietnam they had prostitutes, but they don’t have those in Iraq, so they have women soldiers instead.”

The view of women as sexual prey has always been present in military culture. Indeed, civilian women have been seen as sexual booty for conquering soldiers since the beginning of human history. So, it should come as no surprise that the sexual persecution of female soldiers has been going on in the armed forces for decades.

* A 2004 study of veterans from Vietnam and all wars since, conducted by psychotherapist Maureen Murdoch and published in the journal Military Medicine, found that 71 percent of the women said they were sexually assaulted or raped while serving.

* In 2003, a survey of female veterans from Vietnam through the first Gulf War by psychologist Anne Sadler and her colleagues, published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, found that 30 percent said they were raped in the military.

* And a 1995 study of female veterans of the Gulf and earlier wars, also conducted by Murdoch and published in Archives of Family Medicine, reported that 90 percent had been sexually harassed, which means anything from being pressured for sex to being relentlessly teased and stared at.

* A 2007 survey by the Department of Veterans Affairs found that homelessness among female veterans is rapidly increasing as women soldiers come back from Iraq and Afghanistan. Forty percent of these homeless female veterans say they were sexually abused while in the service.

Defense Department numbers are much lower. In Fiscal Year 2007, the Pentagon reported 2,085 sexual assaults among military women, which given that there are about 200,000 active-duty women in the armed forces, is a mere fraction of what the veterans studies indicate. The discrepancy can be explained by the fact that the Pentagon counts only those rapes that soldiers have officially reported.

Having the courage to report a rape is hard enough for civilians, where unsympathetic police, victim-blaming myths, and the fear of reprisal prevent some 60 percent of rapes from being brought to light, according to a 2005 Department of Justice study.

But within the military, reporting is much riskier. Platoons are enclosed, hierarchical societies, riddled with gossip, so any woman who reports a sexual assault has little chance of remaining anonymous. She will probably have to face her assailant day after day and put up with resentment and blame from other soldiers who see her as a snitch. She risks being persecuted by her assailant if he is her superior, and punished by any commanders who consider her a troublemaker. And because military culture demands that all soldiers keep their pain and distress to themselves, reporting an assault will make her look weak and cowardly.

For all these reasons, some 80 percent of military rapes are never reported, as the Pentagon itself acknowledges.

This widespread misogyny in the military actively encourages a rape culture. It sends the message to men that, no matter how they feel about women, they won’t fit in as soldiers unless they prove themselves a “brother” by demeaning and persecuting women at every opportunity. So even though most soldiers are not rapists, and most men do not hate women, in the military even the nicest guys succumb to the pressure to act as if they do.

Of the 40 or so female veterans I have interviewed over the past two years, all but two said they were constantly sexually harassed by their comrades while they were serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, and many told me that the men were worse in groups than they were individually. Air Force Sgt. Marti Ribeiro, for example, told me that she was relentlessly harassed for all eight years of her service, both in training and during her deployments in 2003 and 2006.

I ended up waging my own war against an enemy dressed in the same uniform as mine. I had a senior non- commissioned officer harass me on a regular basis. He would constantly quiz me about my sex life, show up at the barracks at odd hours of the night and ask personal questions that no supervisor has a right to ask. I had a colonel sexually harass me in ways I’m too embarrassed to explain. Once my sergeant sat with me at lunch in the chow hall, and he said, ‘I feel like I’m in a fish bowl, the way all the men’s eyes are boring into your back.’ I told him, ‘That’s what my life is like.’

Misogyny has always been at the root of sexual violence in the military, but two other factors contribute to it, as well: the type of man who chooses to enter the all-volunteer force and the nature of the Iraq War.

The economic reasons behind enlistment are well understood. The military is the primary path out of poverty and dead-end jobs for many of the poor in America. What is less discussed is that many soldiers enlist as teenagers to escape troubled or violent homes.

Two studies of Army and Marine recruits, one conducted in 1996 by psychologists L.N. Rosen and L. Martin, and the other in 2005 by Jessica Wolfe and her colleagues of the Boston Veterans Affairs Health Center, both of which were published in the journal Military Medicine, found that half the male enlistees had been physically abused in childhood, one-sixth had been sexually abused, and 11 percent had experienced both. This is significant because, as psychologists have long known, childhood abuse often turns men into abusers.

In the ’70s, when the women’s movement brought general awareness of rape to a peak, three men – criminologist Menachim Amir and psychologists Nicholas Groth and Gene Abel – conducted separate but groundbreaking studies of imprisoned rapists. They found that rapists are not motivated by out-of-control lust, as is widely thought, but by a mix of anger, sexual sadism and the need to dominate – urges that are usually formed in childhood. Therefore, the best way to understand a rapist is to think of him as a torturer who uses sex as a weapon to degrade and destroy his victims. This is just as true of a soldier rapist as it is of a civilian who rapes.

Nobody has yet proven that abusive men like this seek out the military – attracted by its violent culture – but several scholars suspect that this is so, including the aforementioned Morris and Rutgers University law professor Elizabeth L. Hillman, author of a forthcoming paper on sexual violence in the military. Hillman writes, “There is ? the possibility that the demographics of the all-volunteer force draw more rape-prone men into uniform as compared to civil society.”

Worse, according to the Defense Department’s own reports, the military has been exacerbating the problem by granting an increasing number of “moral waivers” to its recruits since 9/11, which means enlisting men with records of domestic and sexual violence.

Furthermore, the military has an abysmal record when it comes to catching, prosecuting and punishing its rapists. The Pentagon’s 2007 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military found that 47 percent of the reported sexual assaults in 2007 were dismissed as unworthy of investigation, and only about 8 percent of the cases went to court-martial, reflecting the difficulty female soldiers have in making themselves heard or believed when they report sexual assault within the military. The majority of assailants were given what the Pentagon calls “nonjudicial punishments, administrative actions and discharges.” By contrast, in civilian life, 40 percent of those accused of sex crimes are prosecuted.

Which brings us to the question: Do the reasons soldiers rape have anything to do with the nature of the wars we are waging today, particularly in Iraq?

Robert Jay Lifton, a professor of psychiatry who studies war crimes, theorizes that soldiers are particularly prone to commit atrocities in a war of brutal occupation, where the enemy is civilian resistance, the command sanctions torture, and the war is justified by distorted reasoning and obvious lies.

Thus, many American troops in Iraq have deliberately shot children, raped civilian women and teenagers, tortured prisoners of war, and abused their own comrades because they see no moral justification for the war, and are reduced to nothing but self-loathing, anger, fear and hatred.

Although these explanations for why soldiers rape are dispiriting, they do at least suggest that the military could institute the following reforms:
* Promote and honor more women soldiers. The more respect women are shown by the command, the less abuse they will get from their comrades.
* Teach officers and enlistees that rape is torture and a war crime.
* Expel men from the military who attack their female comrades.
* Ban the consumption of pornography.
* Prohibit the use of sexist language by drill instructors.
* Educate officers to insist that women be treated with respect.
* Train military counselors to help male and female soldiers not only with war trauma, but also with childhood abuse and sexual assault.
* Cease admitting soldiers with backgrounds of domestic or sexual violence.
And last – but far from least – end the war in Iraq.

[Editor's note: This article is adapted from The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq, to be published by Beacon Press in April 2009.]

Helen Benedict, a professor of journalism at Columbia  University, is author of several books concerning  social justice and women. Her writings on women  soldiers won the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism in 2008.

Woman who cut husband’s penis sends surrender feelers

August 16, 2008

By Fernan Gianan
Southern Luzon Bureau
First Posted 17:24:00 08/16/2008

VIRAC, Catanduanes — A 33-year-old woman who nearly cut off her husband’s penis Wednesday night in this capital town has sent surrender feelers to police, a source said Friday.

The source from the Virac Municipal Police Office told the Inquirer that they had received feelers via text messages that Gina Manoguid was willing to surrender after mutilating the reproductive organ of her husband, Noel, 36, at 11:30 p.m. inside their residence in Barangay (village) Cavinitan here.

The victim was still under guarded condition at the Eastern Bicol Medical Center, where his penis was reattached by doctors hours after the incident.

His wife escaped, and their children are now in the care of Noel’s parents.

The official police report said that Noel, an employee of the Virac municipal engineering office, was drunk and asleep in the bedroom when his wife used a kitchen knife on his private part, nearly cutting it off completely.

Co-employees at the municipal hall who had talked to the victim said that Noel had just come home from a “beer plaza” in nearby Barangay Calatagan and was met by his wife, who served him a bottle of gin which they drank together before they went to bed.

He was roused from sleep by a sensation of being electrocuted and came to realize he was bleeding profusely from the cut.

Officials at the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office said the wife had complained that Noel had three other women and that he frequently mistreated her and their four children.(PDI)

Women’s Front: Gloria’s SONA: Lies, treachery to indigenous women

August 11, 2008

By INNABUYOG-GABRIELA

Lies and treachery. That is how Innabuyog puts the president’s State of the Nation Address (SONA). As she faces greater criticism from militant organizations and forces which oppose her administration, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo went on to rub more salt to the wounds of hunger and poverty of indigenous women in the Philippines when she delivered her 8th SONA July 28.

It was not only a brazen act of lying. It was an act of treachery declaring unachieved programs and promising something which is next to impossible to be achieved considering that the government of GMA is not responding to the essential conditions of the Filipino women and people.

In her SONA in July 2001, she mentioned that only 9.8% Filipinos self-rate themselves as hungry. The latest survey puts 16.3% or 14.5 million Filipinos self-rate themselves as hungry and 4.2% are experiencing severe hunger. Latest statistics according to Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) Representative Liza Maza also tells that unemployment rate is now 2.9 million Filipinos while 6.62 are unemployed. The government’s National Statistics Office (NSO) pegged food inflation rates at 17.4% in July 2008 which is almost 15% higher than last year’s 2.6%.

Yet in her last SONA, GMA defended the Value Added Tax (VAT) which progressive organizations like Gabriela and pro-people legislators are demanding to be scrapped. It is a lame assertion for GMA to say that removing the VAT will imperil further the country’s economy. Innabuyog is convinced that VAT only strangles the poor women and their families with an additional 12% cost to basic commodities, services and utilities. Economic indicators tell of the majority of Filipinos already unable to meet their family’s food requirements.

GMA’s anti-poverty program is essentially and definitely a failure as already shown by economic indicators. That is on one hand. On the other hand, she is determined to kill the basic source of livelihood of indigenous women, essentially offered the land and natural resources particularly mineral, forestry and agricultural resources of IPs for state and corporate plunder.

She claims to have distributed P500 to the poorest families in Apayao and Abra and to a number of poor provinces in the country at the breaking of the rice crisis last summer. It is not only an act of doleout but more essentially it is another clear source of corruption. Women leaders in Abra and Apayao have negatively responded to the P500 doleout, they have not even known of one who has received that amount.

Showcase after showcase was how GMA attempted to convince the Filipino people in her last SONA. Her showcase on ancestral land title is actually yet to be realized. Beneficiaries obviously were politicians and producers allied with GMA.

Yet BAI, a national network of indigenous women’s organizations in the Philippines and Innabuyog will consistently attest that the showcases of GMA of indigenous groups receiving their ancestral land or domain titles are not generally experienced by IPs in the country.

Our continuing fight for ancestral domain and self-determination becomes more necessary as GMA is determined to offer the ancestral lands and resources of IPs to foreign corporations. This situation creates more hunger and intensifies poverty for indigenous women. Human rights violations escalate when we face state repression in the process of our resistance.

That is violence against indigenous women.#(NorDis)

Immunity ni Baja pinatatanggal ng Gabriela

August 10, 2008

Soliman A. Santos

HINILING ni Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza sa DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) na tanggalin ang diplomatic immunity ng dating embahador sa UN na si Lauro Baja para bigyang-daan ang imbestigasyon sa mga kasong trafficking, sapilitang paggawa at pang-aalipin na isinampa ng domestic worker na si Marichu Baoanan sa mga korte sa US.

Nauna nang nagsampa ng mosyon si Baja, kasama ng kanyang asawa’t isang anak, sa Southern District Court ng New York para ibasura ang reklamo ni Baoanan, gamit ang diplomatic immunity laban sa mga kasong kriminal, sibil at administratibo sa ilalim ng probisyon ng Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations at mga kasunduan sa ilalim ng United Nations Charter.

“Sa ngalan ng katotohanan at delicadeza, hindi dapat bigyan ng DFA ng immunity si Baja para lumabas ang katotohanan at mga argumento sa kaso. Ang mga embahador at iba pang opisyal sa ibang bansa na inaakusahan o kinasuhan ng trafficking at pang-aalipin sa isang Filipina domestic worker ay hindi dapat magtago sa likod ng immunity,” sabi ni Maza.

Binanggit ni Maza ang Artikulo 31 ng Vienna Convention, na siyang nagbibigay ng immunity para sa mga diplomatiko mula sa kriminal na hurisdiksiyon ng Estado maliban sa mga kasong may kaugnayan sa mga aksiyong may kinalaman sa anumang propesyunal o komersiyal na aktibidad na ginawa ng diplomatiko labas sa kanyang opisyal na mga tungkulin.

“Kahit sa ilalim ng internasyunal na mga kasunduan, ang mga alegasyon ni Baoanan na trafficking at pang-aalipin laban kay Baja ay nasa ilalim ng komersiyal na aktibidad na nagsamantala para sa personal na tubo o ganansiya,” ayon pa kay Maza.

Inihalimbawa pa ni Maza ang desisyon ng Korte Suprem ng Pilipinas noong 2000 na nagdesisyon laban sa DFA nang magbigay ito ng diplomatic immnunity sa isang empleyado ng Asian Development bank, isang akto na ayon sa Korte ay isang paglabag sa karapatan sa due process ng akusado at ng prosekusyon.(PinoyWeekly)

Poverty in Mindanao is state-initiated – Gabriela solon

August 6, 2008

“Terrorism in Mindanao is state-initiated, therefore, it follows that poverty in Mindanao is also caused by the Arroyo government.”

This was the statement of Gabriela women’s party representative Luzviminda Ilagan, following President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s claim during the state of the nation address (SONA) that her administration’s failure to alleviate poverty in Mindanao is due to the endless conflict in the Philippines’ second largest island.

“The state-declared ‘war on terror’ supposedly aimed to maintain peace in Mindanao turned out to be a ‘war of terror’ intended to protect the US and Arroyo’s financial and political interests. She deployed members of the military even in conflict-free areas to silence the people who oppose her so-called development projects,” the solon from Davao said.

The massive military operations in the southern part of the Philippines effectively displaced thousands of families, who, for fear for their lives chose to leave their homes and their sources of livelihood behind. Small farmers have complained that in eking a living, they are constantly starting all over again.

Mindanao, the food basket of the Philippines, was reported to have six out of the ten poorest provinces in the country and has the highest incidence of hunger in the nation. The food crisis, which pegged the price of rice at an all-time high of 50 pesos per kilo, increased the number of people who can not meet their daily food needs to 64 percent this year from 62 percent in 2007. The rate of malnutrition among children also rose, especially in ARMM were it reached 35 percent from 31 percent in 1995, as children were forced to skip meals.

But according to Ilagan, the conflict and therefore poverty in Mindanao is not endless. If only the government will pursue negotiations on domain claims and respect the rights of the people living in ancestral lands, there is a chance to resolve the enduring conflict in the area.

“It is the government which quashes any hope of peace in Mindanao. Arroyo’s on-and-off peace talks and anti-terror policy are being used to bail her out of a sagging popularity due to her failure to resolve economic and political crises in the country,” Ilagan said.

The progressive solon also suggested that the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) push through with the elections, as postponement will benefit no one but the Arroyo administration, because it will extend the terms of her political allies in Mindanao.#

For Reference:

Rep. Luz C. Ilagan 0920-9213221

Abby Valenzuela (Public Information Officer) 0915-7639619

Arroyo policies makes life harder for IP women

August 6, 2008

Davao City- Lumad (indigenous) women attending a large gathering of indigenous people (IP) in this city criticized President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo economic policies which they say have done nothing for them in the eight years she has been in office.

Rather than improving their lives, the indigenous women say that Arroyo’s policies have only worsened their situation. This is because her administration’s targets, such as those presented during the latest state of the nation address (SONA), ignore the real needs of the people in favor of investment priorities.

According to the IP women, the flawed development policies impact directly on their communities, and are particularly felt by them.

“She is also a mother, she should know what burdens we already bear for our families. But rather than helping, her policies instead impose additional burdens on us,” Gina Malumpong, a B’laan from South Cotabato, one of the participants of the State of Indigenous Peoples Address held in Toril, this city, said.

According to the IP women participants, development projects such as large-scale mining and plantations have resulted in the massive displacement of lumads from their ancestral homes. For the lumads this has meant increasing incidence of hunger since displacement from their ancestral lands removes them from traditional sources of food.

“Indigenous women can no longer feed their children. As a result we are forced to come down to the lowlands to work as maids so we can at least earn some money to buy food for the family,”says Gina. “If the President truly cared for women and mothers like she said in her speech, she should at least help us feed our families. The 500 pesos subsidy of her government has never reached us.”

Norma Capuyan, a tagabawa-bagobo, say that Arroyo has not done anything for women. “What her government has brought to us is increased vulnerabilities to violence.” Norma said that as a community organizer, she has documented stories of rape and sexual abuse of B’laan women during military operations in Saranggani. “Poverty and militarization are what we get from her so-called development programs.”

“Arroyo should visit our communities so to see what our real situation is. Her SONA is only for Malacanang, it does not reflect the realities we lumad women face,” Malumpong added.

Gina and Norma are part of the 140 indigenous peoples particpants of the 3-day conference which will culminate in an Indigenous Peoples Solidarty March on July 31 at the Freedom Park where the participants will symbolically turn over the SIPA document to party-list representatives and local government officials.

LRC-KsK Davao Office

479-A General Luna St., Davao City

Tel No.: 082 221 3380

Email: dvo@lrcksk.org

Website: http://lrcksk.org/sipa/

From VAT, VAW to VFA: GWP Takes on Women’s Struggles

August 5, 2008

As Congress opens, the only women’s party-list group in the House of Representatives continues to uphold women’s rights and welfare through legislation.  The Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) shares with Bulatlat its priority bills and resolutions, which include scrapping the Value-Added Tax and the Visiting Forces Agreement, tackling human trafficking, working for maternity leave extension, legislating against violence against women, and for divorce.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat
Volume VIII, Number 26, August 3-9, 2008

The Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) is the only women party-list in the House of Representatives. Founded on October 28, 2000, the GWP aims to advance women’s interests by legislating bills, sponsoring resolutions and by voicing out women’s views on significant national issues.

Its two representatives, Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan, were leaders of the progressive women’s group GABRIELA before they were elected as GWP nominees.

Economic issues

In an interview, Cristina Palabay, GWP secretary general, said that the GWP, along with other progressive party list groups, will push for the repeal of the value-added tax (VAT) on oil and other basic commodities.

As early as January this year, GWP has filed a bill for the repeal of the reformed value-added tax (R-VAT). She said that the GWP representatives will demand for a hearing by either the Committee on Ways and Means or the Committee on Revision of Laws.

The GWP will also actively support the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill and the bill for the legislated P125 across the board wage increase. Both bills were sponsored by the late Anakpawis Representative Crispin Beltran. Palabay said, “Being the most burdened in times of economic crisis, women are primary stakeholders in these issues.”

Migrants

As women comprise 70 percent of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), the GWP takes on the issues of migrants.

A resolution was filed to conduct an investigation on the excessive collection of fees from OFWs by the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Assistance (OWWA).

According to Migrante International, OFWs are paying an average of  P15,400.00 each ($348 at an exchange rate of $1=PhP44.23)  in government fees, including $25 mandatory OWWA membership fee, $100 POEA processing fee, PhP 924 (more than $22)  for Medicare, PhP 650 ($14.69) for passport and other charges including mandatory training and assessment even for domestic workers.

Human trafficking continues to be a major concern for the GWP. Maza is the main author of the Anti-Human Trafficking Act of 2003.

The GWP’s House Resolution 649 calls on the Committees on Women, Foreign Affairs and Overseas Filipinos to look into allegations of trafficking using consular privileges.

Palabay cited the cases of Filipino domestic workers Marichu Baonan and Arlene Gado, who were both employed by diplomats.

On June 24, Baoanan filed charges of trafficking, forced labor, peonage and racketeering against former Philippine ambassador to the United Nations Lauro Baja Jr.

Gado arrived in the US in 2005 after signing a contract in the Philippines to work for Anthony Mandap, then vice consul in the Consulate General of the Philippines in San Francisco. She was, however, transferred to the household of Angelita Reyes, Mandap’s mother-in-law where she served as the Reyes’ domestic helper and caretaker for two years, getting a meager $250 to $325 a month for her services. In May 2007, Gado was rescued by New Jersey labor officials from the Reyes’ household, while Reyes was investigated and subsequently charged with involuntary servitude. Reyes pleaded guilty to charges of third degree criminal restraint and was ordered by the courts to pay $78,000 in back wages to Gado.

Palabay said that the point of inquiry would be to investigate how government officials use their positions and privileges to “legally” traffic women.

Another house resolution filed by Masa, HR 643, aims to investigate the incidents of trafficking of women from Central Luzon to Sandakan, Malaysia.

At least 200 women went to Malaysia via the Diosdado Macapagal Airport in Clark. These women were allegedly taken to brothels and prostitution dens.

Palabay said that the GWP will also file a resolution to inquire on the government’s plan for undocumented migrant workers who are targets for deportation in Malaysia and European Union countries.

She said that while government officials say that they will ensure an orderly deportation and the protection of the migrants’ human rights, the experiences of deportees in Sabah prove otherwise.

Palabay said, “Many Filipinos in Sabah are languishing in jail. May nanganak pang babae sa kulungan.” (A woman delivered her baby inside the detention cell.)

The group would also want to investigate the alleged criminal neglect of government officials. The resolution is pending at the Committee on Overseas Filipino Workers.

Labor

Women comprise 50 percent of the labor force in the Philippines. Besides the bill on the proposed wage hike, the GWP also filed House Bill 3973 seeking to extend the maternity leave for women workers.

Women workers are given 60 days or eight weeks for maternity leave. The bill intends to increase it to 120 days or 16 weeks to allow mothers to breastfeed for at least the first four months after delivery.

The Philippines ranks lowest in South East Asia, along with Malaysia in providing for maternity protection as indicated by the length of period of maternity leave benefits granted to women workers.

Vietnam                   4 to 6 months or 120 to 180 days
Thailand                   90 days
Cambodia                 90 days
Indonesia                 3 months or 90 days
Laos                        90 days
Myanmar                  12 weeks or 84 days
Singapore                 12 weeks or 84 days
Philippines                 60 days
Malaysia                   60 days

The GWP also filed a resolution to conduct an investigation on the alleged labor rights violations by Korean firm K&Y Apparel.

Women workers complained that the company violated the minimum wage law, implemented unfair labor practices and denied the workers’ right to organize.

The GWP also filed House Bill 4734 or the Public School Teachers’ Additional Compensation Act. Eighty percent of the public school teachers are women.

The bill aims to increase the salary of public school teachers by P9,000 ($203). According to the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), the present entry level salary of public school teachers is only PhP10,933 ($247). This accounts for only 56 percent of the family living wage of PhP 882 ($20) per day or PhP 19,404 ($438) per month as determined by the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NCPW).

Pinoy-style divorce

Addressing the issue of violence against women, the GWP will file a “Pinoy-style divorce bill.”

Palabay explained, “It’s different from the known kind of divorce, the no faults-divorce where you can just divorce each other without any reason, just because you want to…[the bill has provisions to] establish, review bases for divorce, it accommodates irreconcilable differences.”

Palabay said that legal separation and annulment are too costly for women. “You need to spend a minimum of P200,000 ($4,521) to avail of those remedies. You also have to wait for three to five years.”

Palabay said that existing laws on nullification and legal separation do not give immediate and long-term relief for women in violent and abusive marriages. She said that the divorce bill will not seek to repeal the laws on legal separation and annulment but will only give women another option.

She said that the Philippines and Malta are the only countries without a law on divorce.

Palabay further said, “By having annulment as recourse for women in violent marriages, the Church recognizes that some marriages do not work. The divorce bill is not anti-family because it aims to strengthen quality marriages and relationships. How can you prolong the agony of spouses, especially women, in violent, abusive relationships? That would be detrimental to women and their children.”

The 2003 report of the Philippine National Police shows that wife-battering accounted for 53.6 percent of the total 8,011 cases of violence against women. About three out of 10 perpetrators were husbands of the victims. Husbands accounted for 28 per cent of the crimes of violence against women.

Palabay said that divorce will be more easily facilitated and hopefully less expensive. She said there will be no need to hire psychologists, as required in most cases of legal separation and annulment.

Increasing women’s participation

The GWP also filed a bill seeking to increase women’s participation in various levels of politics and governance by as much as 50 percent.

Palabay said, “This hopes to empower women and to provide venues for the full exercise of women’s rights to participate and include the women’s agenda in politics and governance.”

Foreign troops, sovereignty

On the issue of national sovereignty, the party list group filed separate bills for the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement and of the Philippine-Australia Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).

Other resolutions sought to investigate abuses by American troops in Panamao, Sulu.

Palabay said that in spite of a resolution calling for support for Hazel, a Filipina allegedly raped by an American soldier in Okinawa, Japan, Congress has yet to take concrete action. The resolution was unanimously adopted in March.

In a separate interview, Maza said that she will take up Hazel’s case anew and look into several angles of the case, including the U.S. government’s trampling upon the sovereignty of states. Bulatlat

One UP student’s journey

August 4, 2008

One UP student’s journey

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

– Robert Frost, 1915


The University of the Philippines Centennial Year is spurring a lot of reminiscences as well as serious reflection on the role the premier state university has played and will continue to play in addressing intractable national problems and the huge challenges that go with them. Having been remiss in partaking of the formal festivities since the start of the year, I wish to add my own personal reflections and do my share in placing on record that facet of UP that is indelibly etched in its past and will inevitably help shape its future – radical student activism.

Even in the late sixties, it was still unusual for a graduate of a relatively exclusive, all-girl Catholic school, still run by German nuns, to go on to UP for a college degree. The common perception was that one could lose one’s soul to the devil at UP, not just by imbibing the liberal thinking that opened the door to agnosticism, or worse atheism, but also to the insidious infiltration of one’s young mind by “communist” ideas.

But having come from a middle-class family of UP alumni, my situation was the exact opposite. It was expected that the entire brood of six would somehow enter UP’s grand portals and finish with a degree properly tucked under the arm, if possible with honors. We were completely unaffected by the conservative scare about UP.

Thus did I step into the Diliman campus bringing with me my orientation towards academic excellence, a strong background in Catholic social action and a marked streak of rebelliousness. (The latter had caused my transfer to the “B” section during my last year in high school as punishment for being outspoken, my election by accident to the presidency of the student council and culminated in a spur-of-the-moment walkout during a meeting with the disciplinarian school principal.)

By then I was also a budding feminist, having imbibed such ideas from the literature of the Women’s Liberation Movement that my role model eldest sister assiduously mailed to us from the US. As a young adolescent, I already instinctively resisted any manifestations of male domination or hints of a patronizing attitude from new-found male friends and acquaintances. Refreshingly, UP had comparatively less of that by the time I enrolled even though the macho fraternities were still going strong and continued to swagger and give female freshmen the eye from their ubiquitous tambayan.

I truly reveled in the liberal atmosphere of the iconoclastic institution of higher learning that UP had become. I enjoyed the general education courses in my first two years that helped mold me into a well-rounded, thinking young person with a sense of being Filipino. The faculty members were a mixed bunch but generally competent, if not all excellent; thought-provoking, if not always inspiring. One’s idiosyncratic teachers (we students called them “terrors”) provided indispensable lessons in surviving the unexpected in one’s colorful student life.

From such a background, one might expect that I would be a natural recruit for the radical student organizations that mushroomed and grew by leaps and bounds in those turbulent seventies. Instead I entered the UP Student Catholic Action (UPSCA) and not its counterpoint, the Student Cultural Association of UP (SCAUP) founded by one Jose Maria Sison. Delaney Hall and the UP Chapel became my comfort zone as I negotiated the daunting new social terrain fresh from the relative insulation of my collegiala years.

I became a “moderate” as they called it in the political parlance of the time. I spoke at teach-ins in the dormitories railing against social injustice and police brutality against demonstrators but I equally denounced the “violence” and the “extremism” of the leftist student organizations. I didn’t join the militants’ rallies but the ones led by the Atenean student leader, Edgar Jopson of the National Union of Students of the Philippines. We always left before the police moved in to violently disperse the radical students with truncheons and bullets. Then, I understood very little of their ideology nor was I intrinsically opposed to their politics; I was just turned off by their sloganeering and seeming unruliness.

My being a student leader in high school made it easier for me to get involved in extracurriculars particularly student politics and I became elected as a councilor in the college council in my second year. But my priorities then were academics first and foremost. Even as students were boycotting their classes to protest the unwarranted oil price increases at the time (by one to two-centavo increments!) I was holed up in the Arts and Sciences student council room studying for my next exam.

Only the persistent ribbing from an activist friend about my abdicating my responsibility to lead co-students in protesting provoked me to leave my books behind. In the nick of time, I witnessed the shooting by a crazy, enraged Math professor, of a protesting high school student, Pastor Mesina, who was part of a contingent of students massed up at UP’s main avenue leading up to the Oblation.

In this dramatic, heart-stopping manner did I eventually get drawn into the historic train of events that led to the setting up of student barricades at the major entrances to the campus to stall the entry of police and military troops ordered by President Marcos to impose “law and order”. I became part, albeit still peripherally, of the symbolic liberated zone of the “Diliman Commune” that was declared by students, teachers and other members of the UP community in February 1971.

That was my baptism of fire into radical student activism. I was confronted with the reality of state fascism unleashed barefaced against defenseless citizens and in flagrant violation of academic freedom. This was how I came to concretely understand the qualitative difference between state violence utilized by the ruling classes to preserve the status quo and the defensive violence resorted to by the oppressed and exploited to challenge the existing order and assert their rights.

And it all happened right in the heart of UP in my second year as an AB Psychology student. (Next week: Campus Politics and Medical School)

posted by Carol P. Araullo @ Thursday, July 31, 2008

Women’s Front: Aeta women face military atrocities

August 3, 2008

By INNABUYOG-GABRIELA

Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan condemns the massive military operations and human rights violations against the Aetas of Porac and Floridablanca, Pampanga, where the 72nd Infantry Battalion and the 3rd Brigade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines have been deployed since July 10 as part of the Investment Defense Force scheme of the Arroyo government.

“The deployment of military troops in indigenous communities under the guise of protecting the national economy but at the expense of the IPs is ridiculous. It is unlawful as it violates the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which state that the rights of indigenous cultural communities should never be compromised for the sake of development, “ Ilagan said in a press conference with the Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP).

The Mindanaoan solon pointed out that it is not only the Aetas of Pampanga who experience state-perpetrated abuses. Since the Revitalization of the Minerals Industry Program was launched in 2004 and 18 indigenous territories were selected to be part of the 24 priority mining areas in the Philippines, complaints of human rights violations committed against indigenous peoples have increased.

“In Mindanao, for example, the Lumads of Compostela Valley and Subanens of Zamboanga del Norte are being pushed away from their homes by the easement rights granted to foreign mining firms by the Arroyo government. Any resistance is immediately quashed through the deployment of military and paramilitary forces and men, women and children who show the slightest hint of opposition are tortured, harassed, raped and murdered,” the militant party-list representative said.

In the Cordillera, military operations had been going on in Abra. The militarized areas are also the areas where mining companies have their applications, the Innabuyog, an alliance of indigenous women’s organizations in the Cordillera reported.

“This situation not only sows terror among indigenous women and children but also destroys the key source of livelihood and identity for the indigenous peoples,” comments Innabuyog chairperson Vernie Yocogan-Diano.

GWP Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan  added that as of 2007, 130 cases of extra-judicial killings that victimized IPs have been recorded.

Ilagan, together with KAMP, supports the call of the Aetas and other indigenous peoples in the Philippines for the government to pullout the elements of Armed Forces of the Philippines deployed in their ancestral lands. #

Asia-Pacific women bear mining woes

August 3, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Participants to the Seminar on Women and Mining at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) at Camp John Hay, here, concluded that mining’s adverse impacts fall hardest on women among the world’s poorest populations.

Khushi Kabir of the Bantey Srei, a women’s organization in Bangladesh, said poor women bear the burden of a threatened food security due to mining operations.

“It is the poor women who have to scamper for food, face military atrocities and secure the whole family from environmental threats due to mining,” Khushi told the Baguio press, shortly after the seminar which gathered more than 30 women from seven countries.

In her native Bangladesh, mining for coal, oil and gas has left communities with large craters and damaged fertile agricultural lands, leaving Bengali farmers in extreme poverty and hunger.

In Thailand, where there is a potash mine, health authorities found cyanide in the blood of residents, and in the river system. Potash is a mineral used to manufacture glass and soap. The new Thai mining code, enacted some 10 years ago left landowners only 50 meters from the surface, the resources beyond which include minerals, belong to the Thai government. This is similar to the Regalian Doctrine, adopted in Philippine laws, which states that all minerals belonged to the state.

Suntaree, a participant from Thailand said, “People could not get anything from their own lands because the government owned the minerals 50 meters underground.”

Sponsored by an all-women development group Asia-Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), the four-day seminar on mining included tours to Benguet mine sites where participants interacted with local folk in mining communities.

Foreign interests in mining

Mines in all the countries represented are now foreign-owned and controlled, with their respective mining laws amended to accommodate foreign ownership.

In Indonesia, for instance, the 1965 mining law was amended to suit the interests of foreign investors.

One of the participants said she “did not expect the magnitude of environmental devastation after the minerals have been extracted from the bosom of the earth,” describing an abandoned minesite.

Similarly, in the Philippines, the Mining Act of 1995 provides for a financial and technical assistance agreement (FTAA) that allows foreign-owned corporations into mining ventures and grants foreign investors certain rights normally denied aliens.

Newmont, an international mining company with applications for FTAA in the Cordillera, is also in Indonesia. It is being accused of polluting the Indonesian Senunu Bay with heavy metals and other toxic wastes that might be detrimental to the ocean’s ecosystem.

Human rights, Asian women

With mining in their midst, Asian women face security problems due to military presence in their communities. As it turned out during the seminar, extra-judicial killings is a common occurrence in many mining communities in the Asia-Pacific region.

Bangladesh women saw the bitter realities of genocide with the mines at the Thai border displacing many communities before 1979.

“When people returned, there was massive landless-ness, conflict and poverty,” Kushi told the media Monday.

The gathering provided the women a forum to identify their common situations and came up with doable resolutions, according to Vernie Yocogan-Diano, chairperson of Innabuyog-Gabriela, among APLD conveners and host of the seminar.

“The workshops are important,” said Lindsay Francis of Cook Islands in the Pacific. She said, the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal to eradicate poverty by 2015 is far from being achieved.

APWLD’s programs and activities are focused in promoting women’s rights as human rights as an analytical and strategic framework of engaging with the legal system to empower women.

APWLD has engaged primarily in policy advocacy, education, training and other activities to address issues and concerns of poor and marginalized women in the region. It has lobbied at regional and international levels for the implementation of government commitments in international conventions and the integration of gender issues at regional and international fora.

APWLD has developed partnership with women’s groups, human rights groups and development NGOs in the Asia Pacific region to consolidate, expand and strengthen networks working on women, law and development.

In 1986, women lawyers and other activists in the region formally launched APWLD and set up a secretariat in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The secretariat relocated to Chiangmai, Thailand in October 1997. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorDis)

Ifugao gov urges CAR peace body to solve crimes vs. women, kids

August 3, 2008

BANAWE, Ifugao — With rape registering one-fifth of all index crimes in the province, officials here and the visiting regional heads of government agencies agreed violence against women and children is a social concern that should be addressed with certain urgency.

Gov. Teddy Baguilat considers some social problems, besides rape, as the greatest threat to the Ifugao’s peace and order mentioning that while province has been declared jueteng-free, some other vices and problems still manifest.

“If we are to prepare a place where we could nurture the future of our children, then it should also be free of social problems,” Baguilat said. “This is a generally peaceful province, but it has its share in the region’s problems,” he said as he greeted participants to the Regional Peace and Order Council, which held a meeting at the Banawe Hotel, here, Friday.

In his report to the Provincial Peace and Order Council, which also met at the same venue, shortly before the RPOC meeting started, Provincial Police Director Joseph Adnol said Ifugao is the only province with no problems concerning Communist rebels.

Both officials, however, acknowledged the relatively high incidence of sexual abuse, especially among minors.

In his orientation paper Adnol mentioned that rape consisted 21% of all index crimes in the province in a one-year period. Physical injuries comprised 17% while homicide registered 9%. Other crimes registered low with robbery (5%), theft (4%) and murder (1%).

The Cordillera PNP report during the RPOC meeting also mentioned rape occurrence in Benguet and other provinces of the Cordillera.

This was confirmed by Provincial Social Welfare Officer Joyce Niwani, who said the DSWD is looking into violence against women and children, especially now that she receives reports that these violations happen inside the homes.

“Local folk are aware of what is happening and they come to us to report the incidents,” Niwani told the press in an interview.

Police Regional Director Eugene Martin, however, clarified, the registered crimes do not necessarily reflect the true picture because only those which have been pursued in court are included in the listing of crimes. Martin said the Philippine National Police is following a national directive.

“Once you look at the police blotter, the list may be longer,” Martin clarified. He said, a lot of cases reported in the police blotter pass through amicable settlement, and are usually stricken out.

Niwani said government agencies encourage the filing of legal cases against the perpetrators so that they get the corresponding treatment under the law.

Meanwhile, both Niwani and Baguilat said the Summit on Women and Children in November would be a good step at raising people’s consciousness on VAW/C but agree that the activity alone could not address the problem. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorDis)

A Daughter’s Pain, a Mother’s Suffering, and their Quest for Justice

July 27, 2008

It was an unusual reunion of mother and daughter. Nanay Mely visited Hazel in Okinawa, Japan last week. After knowing the details of the sufferings Hazel endured in the hands of an American soldier, Nanay Mely would have wanted to bring Hazel home. But her daughter is determined to fight, and so is she.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat
Volume VIII, Number 25, July 27-August 2, 2008

Nanay Mely, together with Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) Representative Liza Maza and other GABRIELA officers visited Hazel in Okinawa, Japan last week. Hazel, 21, was allegedly raped by an American soldier in an Okinawa City hotel, Feb. 18.

The Okinawa police identified the suspect as Sgt. Ronald Edward Hopstock Jr. of the 1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment.

When she saw Hazel, Nanay Mely told Bulatlat, “Di ko napigilan, umiyak ako habang niyayapos siya.” (I could not control my tears, I cried as I hugged her.)

She said that Hazel was smiling; she asked her why. Hazel told her, “Hindi na ako iiyak, matapang na ako.” (I will not cry any more, I have become courageous.)

When she heard the details of the rape incident, Nanay Mely said, ”Grabe pala ang nangyari. Pakiramdam ko, malalagot ang hininga ko, kinukurot ang dibdib ko… Parang gusto kong sumigaw pero pinigilan ko sarili ko. Ipinapakita ko sa kanya, matapang ako. Iniinom ko na lang ng tubig.” (What happened to her is terrible. I felt I could not breath, my heart was aching…I wanted to shout but I controlled myself. I tried to show her that I am brave. I just kept on drinking water.)

Near death

On Feb. 17, Hazel went out with Hopstock together with five other Filipina entertainers and US Marines. Initially, she hesitated to join them but the other entertainers egged her on, saying they would just eat out and roam around the city.

They had dinner. Then, the US Marines invited them to go to the New Century Hotel in Okinawa. Hopstock refused and said he just wanted to go to a videoke bar instead. Because of that, Linaban related, he gained Hazel’s trust. Hazel thought she was safe with him.

The other Filipina entertainers told Hazel that they would meet later. When Hazel wanted to return to their apartment, Hopstock took her to the hotel saying that her friends were waiting there.

Unknown to Hazel, Hopstock had already reserved a room at the hotel. When they arrived there, she called up one of the Filipina entertainers. The Filipina said she would already sleep and they would meet at 6 a.m. It was already dawn.

Linaban said, ”Akala niya, mapagkakatiwalaan niya, natulog na siya. Nagising siya, pinupwersa na siya.” (She thought she could trust him so she slept ahead of him. When she woke up, he was already forcing himself upon her.)

Nanay Mely related, ”Pumasok siya sa CR habang iniisip kung anong gagawin, maraming dugo ang lumalabas sa kanya, buo-buo niyang dinadampot.” (She went inside the comfort room, thinking what to do. She was bleeding profusely. Clotted blood dropped out of her.) Nanay Mely showed her fist, saying the blood coming from Hazel was of that size.

She continued, “Nagmamakaawa siya, duguan. Wala siyang bihisan. Ibinalot sa kanya ang damit ng militar, iniwan siya nang makitang hindi maganda ang lagay niya.” (She was begging for help, she was full of blood. She had no spare clothes. The soldier wrapped his uniform around her but he left when he realized that she was in such a bad state.)

Before Hazel lost consciousness, Nanay Mely said that Hazel was able to get the name of the soldier from the hotel’s front desk. When Hazel regained consciousness, she was already in an ambulance.

Nanay Mely said the doctor told Hazel that she could have died from serious bleeding. ”Kung di malakas ang loob niya, mamamatay na sana siya.” (If she is not strong enough, the doctor said she could have died.) ”Kung namatay siya, hindi ko matatanggap.” (If she died then, I could never accept it.)

She said, ”Kawawa talaga, walang nag-aalaga. Mag-isa lang siya noon sa ospital.” (Her condition was miserable, nobody took care of her. She was alone in the hospital.)

Angry

When asked about what the government did to assist Hazel, Nanay Mely retorted, “Galit ako, hindi nila tinulungan ang anak ko. Kung naghintay lang ako ng tulong ng gobyerno, walang mangyayari. Kung hindi ako gumawa ng paraan, kawawa ang anak ko.” (I am angry, they did not help my daughter. If I waited for the government’s help, nothing would have happened. If I did not make a move, my daughter would be helpless.)

Nanay MelyNanay Mely related that when she first learned about what happened to Hazel, she did not know what to do. A reporter from a television network went to their house in Palawan and interviewed her. She asked for the reporter’s help and the latter told her to contact GABRIELA.

Nanay Mely said that the Philippine consulate asked Hazel to leave Japan on June 12. Her visa would have expired in three days. ”Iniyakan niya pa bago ibigay ang passport niya.” (She begged and cried before they gave her her passport.) A Filipino priest sponsored the extension of her visa.

Determined

Nanay Mely said that she asked Hazel about her plans. “Hindi siya makasagot. Hindi niya pa raw alam. Ang alam niya lang ngayon, lalaban siya, manalo o matalo, lalaban siya.” (She could not answer. She said she doesn’t know yet. All she knows right now is that she will fight, no matter if she would win or lose, she will fight.)

Nanay Mely said, ”Tinanong ko siya kung natatakot siya? Minsan daw pero wala raw mangyayari kung matatakot siya. Sabi niya, Mama, matapang na ako.” (I asked her if she is afraid. Sometimes, she said, but added that nothing will happen if she will be afraid. She told me, ’Mama, I have become brave.’”)

Nanay Mely said she would have wanted to take Hazel home with her. ”Ayoko na siyang mawalay sa akin.Pero sabi ko, ikaw ang masusunod. Habang lumalaban ka, gagawa ako ng paraan para matulungan ka.” (I don’t want her to be away from me. But I told her, ’I will respect your decision. While you are fighting, I will do everything to help you.) Bulatlat

Rape, Human Trafficking, Gov’t Neglect – the Travails of Okinawa Rape Victim Hazel

July 27, 2008

An investigation led by GWP Representative Liza Maza on the plight of Okinawa rape victim Hazel discovered that she was a victim three times over: of rape, human trafficking, and of government neglect.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat
Volume VIII, No. 25, July 27-August 2, 2008

It is an all-too-familiar story of an OFW who was lured by promises of a decent job abroad only to be herded to a different country without proper travel documents, and forced to work as a virtual slave and prisoner. To complete the story, when the OFW is already in a situation of distress, the Filipino community and migrants’ rights advocates come to the rescue while Philippine consulate and embassy officials claim that they cannot do anything and when pressured to give assistance, it always arrives too late. But this story is worse, this OFW was raped by a soldier of the US armed forces.

The investigation of a five-member team led by Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) Representative Liza Maza on the plight of Okinawa rape victim Hazel discovered that not only was Hazel a victim of rape by Sgt. Ronald Edward Hopstock Jr. of 1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment in a hotel in Okinawa, Feb. 18; she was also a victim of human trafficking and of indifference by Philippine consulate officials.

The team went to Okinawa on July 16. For five days, a series of dialogues ensued with Philippine consulate and Japanese government officials, Hazel’s lawyer and anti-US bases advocates and organizations. They were also able to talk to Hazel and to her custodian lengthily.

In an interview, Lana Linaban, deputy secretary general of GABRIELA and member of the Okinawa mission, said that Hazel was indeed raped and the “Philippine government officials in Okinawa clearly neglected her.”

Negligence and indifference

Linaban said that Hazel had no lawyer during the investigation of the rape case filed at the Naha District Public Prosecutor’s Office. She said a lawyer was later provided by the Philippine consulate in Okinawa but it was too late as the counsel began working on the case a mere three days before the last hearing.

Linaban related that since Day 1, Hazel has made it clear that she will fight. “She told the Philippine consulate that she needed a lawyer,” said Linaban. But apparently her request was ignored.

The hearings transpired on May 1, 8, 12 and 15. It was only around May 13 when the lawyer sent by the consulate worked on the case. On May 16, the court dismissed the case for ‘insufficient evidence.’ The Okinawa police submitted a 2,000-page of report to the prosecutor.

Linaban disclosed that in a dialogue, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) reasoned out that the lawyer was intended for the trial. “Aminado silang wala nang silbi ang abogado. Na-dismiss ang kaso.” (They admitted that the lawyer would no longer be of help as the case has already been dismissed.)

Linaban said that no Philippine government representative attended Hazel’s hearings. Hazel was accompanied by her custodian, Fr. Rommel Cruz, members of the Okinawa police and the translator provided by the consulate.

Linaban said the prosecutor commented that there were inconsistencies in Hazel’s testimony. Linaban said that Hazel was not sure if the interpreter provided to her by the Philippine consulate efficiently translated her statements.
Hazel’s lawyer, Linaban added, does not speak English. She said, “They could not understand each other.”

Linaban criticized the Philippine consulate for not doing any legal or diplomatic action after the dismissal of the case.

Linaban said that during the team’s dialogue with Philippine Consul General Sulpicio Confiado, the latter’s standard answer was “I will check on it.”

She added that Honorary Consul Ako Alarcon of the Philippine consulate in Okinawa blamed Cruz for ‘grabbing custody of Hazel.’ Linaban said, “Kaya wala na raw silang alam.” (That is why, they claimed, they knew nothing about the case since then.)

Linaban related that the Filipino priest volunteered to sponsor the extension of Hazel’s visa which expired after the hearing. The Philippine consulate, she said, made no move to extend her visa.

In an interview, Nanay Mely, Hazel’s mother, said that the Philippine consulate wanted her daughter to just go home. Nanay Mely said that Hazel pleaded for her passport.

Alarcon, Linaban said, also told them that attending to Hazel’s case is not within her functions. “Trade lang daw ang sa kanya. Sa Philippine Embassy sa Tokyo raw ang labor.” (She said she just deals with trade-related matters. The Philippine Embassy in Tokyo is supposedly in charge of labor-related concerns.)

Linaban related that the Philippine government did not bother to provide temporary shelter for Hazel. She said that the Okinawa police investigators took Hazel to a Japanese shelter house but the maximum stay is only two months. Hazel was then transferred to a nun’s convent and later referred to Cruz, a Filipino Catholic priest in Okinawa.

A case of human trafficking

Hazel was fresh out of college when lured by a recruiter to work as a cultural dancer abroad. The offer was tempting as Hazel was in a hurry to contribute to the upkeep of the family. She is the eldest of six siblings and the first to graduate from college in the family. Her parents had no stable income: her father did odd jobs while her mother is a vendor.

Hazel and four other Filipinas underwent training in dance with the Cinderella recruitment agency. The aspiring OFWs were surprised when they were taught sexy dancing. They also did not undergo any pre-departure orientation. A representative of the recruitment agency told Hazel and four other Filipinas to get rid of all their documents except for their passports when they reach Taipei, Taiwan for a transit stop. On February 14, the five Filipinas left Manila.

When Hazel and the four other Filipinas arrived in Okinawa on Feb. 14, a certain Boyet fetched them and took all their passports. They were given a photocopy of their passports. Boyet then took them to three different bars.

While Hazel’s contract states that she would work as a dancer, Linaban related, Hazel was asked to do more, including drinking with customers. She was also asked to go out with a customer. Linaban said that these practices are considered illegal in Japan.

Filipinos in Japan informed the mission team that Boyet used to work as an employee of the Philippine consulate.

Linaban said that when she asked Alarcon if she knew that Filipina entertainers’ passports are taken by their employers, Alarcon replied that it is the standard operating procedure (SOP).

During the stay of the team in Okinawa, three Filipina entertainers were deported.

Maza, author of the Anti-Human Trafficking Act said she would call for a Congressional investigation on how the anti-trafficking law is being implemented. She also said, “The allegations from some members of the Filipino community that our representatives in Okinawa may have aided trafficking must be looked into.”

Maza said she would sponsor a resolution to investigate whether Philippine embassy and consulate officials are making business out of labor export.

Misleading

Linaban further chided the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for releasing “misleading” information regarding Hazel’s case.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Esteban Conejos was quoted in a July 2 article of the Business Mirror saying that “the US military has agreed to conduct court-martial proceedings against an American soldier accused of raping a Filipino woman in Okinawa, Japan.”

In the same article, Conejos further said, “The US military has taken cognizance, assumed jurisdiction of the case.”

Linaban said that no case has been filed yet at the US court martial. She explained that the Criminal Investigation Department of the US military court is still in the process of conducting an investigation. A report would then be submitted to the prosecutor then the judge advocate would determine if there is a case.

Linaban said that the legal assistant of Hazel’s new lawyer informed them that it could take four weeks before the initial investigation is concluded.

Distorted justice system

Linaban added that it remains uncertain if the charge to be filed against Hopstock – that is, if the court martial deems that there is sufficient cause to do so – would be rape. She said that Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (http://usmilitary.about.com/od/justicelawlegislation/a/art120new.htm) defines various levels of sexual assault.

Linaban cited the gang rape case involving four US Marines in Hiroshima sometime in October 2007.

Based on news reports, Lance Cpl. Larry A. Dean, 20, one of the four Marines who faced court martial was found guilty of “wrongful sexual contact and indecent acts” but was cleared of rape.

Linaban retorted, “Korte nila ‘yan eh.” (That is their court.)

She said that the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the US and Japan should not result to the surrender of Japan’s sovereignty.

Maza said, “In principle, sovereign states should have jurisdiction on cases/crimes committed in their territories. The presence of US bases and troops has distorted justice/criminal system such that perpetrators are able to get away from criminal liability. They are the ones who define the venue for justice settlement.”

Maza stressed, “This is inherently wrong…the US is usurping the sovereign rights of other countries.”

Linaban said, “The US wants to preserve the so-called integrity of their institutions and will always prove that these are but isolated cases.” She said that the US’ procedural mechanism to “discipline” their troops is political in nature. “The US intends to preempt the resurgence of strong anti-US bases campaigns,” she said.

Maza maintained that the Philippine government should pursue the rape case in the civil court.

Linaban said the Filipino people would not want the case to be resolved in the court martial. Maza and Linaban cited the case of Nicole where the rape case of the US soldier who raped her was tried by a civilian court. Unfortunately, they said, justice was not served in the end as the Philippine government eventually surrendered custody over the American soldier to the US embassy.

Nicole was raped just before midnight of Nov. 1, 2005 in Subic Bay. On Dec. 4, 2006, the Makati Regional Trial Court convicted Lance Corporal Daniel Smith of rape.

On Dec. 29, 2006, however, Smith was transferred to the US Embassy after DFA Secretary Alberto Romulo and US Ambassador Kristie Kenney agreed on the transfer of custody citing the provisions of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

In the case of Hazel, Linaban said that the US may sacrifice Hopstock. “Politically, the strategic objective to maintain their forces and bases in Okinawa is definitely more important”

Support

Linaban related that the organization Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence has pledged their support for Hazel’s case. The Japanese group is campaigning against the construction of a new base facility in the Northern part of Okinawa.

Maza said they also met with at least 15 members of the Prefecture Assembly, counterpart of the Philippine Congress. Maza appealed to the Prefecture Assembly, to other organizations in Japan, and to the Filipino community to support Hazel in her quest for justice. Bulatlat

Women’s Front: Asian Women asserts “food over gold”

July 26, 2008

By INNABUYOG-GABRIELA

Over the years, large-scale corporate mining has caused tremendous damage to the food resources of rural communities putting indigenous and peasant women in more difficult hunger and human rights situation. Large mining has caused irreversible damage to the environment — defacing mountains, caused desertification and heavy siltation, damage of water resources and agricultural lands. Yet, most governments all over the world continue to support the mining industry, opt for the interest of mining transnationals over peoples’ rights to resources and the environment.

The Asia-Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) is a network of women organizations and individuals in the Asia Pacific region that promotes women’s human rights in the face of globalization, militarization and fundamentalism. Particularly, its Task Force on Women and Environment launched the “Food Over Gold” campaign in 2005 as part of APWLD’s food sovereignty campaign.

The Task Force WEN, convened by Vernie Yocogan- Diano of Innabuyog aims to highlight the impact of mining to women and food sovereignty given the heightened aggressiveness of mining corporations since the World Bank called for the liberalization of the mining industry in the early 90’s. In the previous years, WEN has organized some forums regarding women and mining and mining fact-finding missions. These forums served as venues for effectively analyzing the impact of mining on food sovereignty, on women’s rights as a whole and in the light of human security laws enforced by governments in the Asia-Pacific. In the light of the world’s outcry against climate change and global warming, the Task Force on Women and Environment of APWLD will also concretize its work to respond to this concern.

APWLD’s Task Force WEN held a study session on women and mining in Asia on 17-20 July 2008 in Baguio City to strengthen its resolve for women’s food sovereignty over the destruction of environment at the Igorot Lodge, Asian Institute Management Conference Centre, Club John Hay, Baguio City. Participants came from women’s organizations from Cambodia, India, Thailand, Philippines, Mongolia, Korea and Indonesia to discuss on the international trends in mining, mining and food sovereignty, mining and indigenous women, mining and militarization and the health issues that goes with mining. The study session also looked into the opportunities where women in Asia can bring their collective voice for actions, both in the local, national and international arena. #(NorDis)

Misyon sa Okinawa: DFA nagpabaya sa kaso ni Hazel

July 24, 2008

NAPAG-ALAMAN ng pangkat na tumulak patungong Okinawa kamakailan na binalewala ng gobyerno ng Pilipinas ang kaso ni Hazel, biktima ng human trafficking at panggagahasa ng sundalong Amerikano.

Ayon kay Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza, na nanguna sa misyon, positibong ginahasa si Hazel ayon sa mga rekord medikal at sa paglalahad sa kanila ng biktima sa mga nangyari noong gabi ng Pebrero 18.

Ayon sa pangkat, nalaman ni Honorary Consul Ako Alarcon, konsulado ng Pilipinas sa Okinawa, ang panggagahasa kay Hazel nang maospital ito. Pero hindi umano nagbigay si Alarcon ng suportang ligal para malaman kung may probable cause ang kaso.

Ibinasura ng Naha District Public Prosecutor’s Office noong Mayo 19 ang kasong isinampa ni Hazel laban kay Sgt. Ronald Edward Hopstock Jr. ng 1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment ng US Army na umano’y nanggahasa sa kanya sa loob ng isang hotel.

Sinabi pa ng pangkat na mag-isang humaharap si Hazel sa proseso ng imbestigasyon. Wala umanong alam ang biktima sa sistema sa Hapon, hindi nakakaintindi ng lokal na lengguwahe, at walang kakilala dahil tatlong araw pa lamang siyang dumating dito bago naganap ang insidente.

“Si Hazel ay nangangailangan ng hustisya. Kailangang hikayatin ng ating gobyerno ang gobyerno ng Japan na imbestigahang muli ang kaso. Ang soberanyang bansa ay mayroong soberanyang karapatan na manghuli, kahit na Amerikanong sundalo pa ang nagkasala,” sabi ni Maza.

Isa lang umano ni Hazel sa maraming Pilipina na biktima ng sex trafficking na ginagamit para sa “rest and recreation” ng mga sundalong Kano na naka-base sa Okinawa. Sakop ng baseng militar ng US ang 20% ng lupain sa probinsya.

Mula 1985 hanggang 2005, may 34 kaso na ng panggagahasa na isinampa laban sa mga tropang Kano na naka-base sa Okinawa.(PWeekly)

Ex-actress’ alleged moves to force maid to withdraw case hit

July 23, 2008

By Marlon Ramos Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines — Alleged machinations by a former actress and sister of a lawmaker to force her housemaid to withdraw the criminal cases that had been filed against her have been denounced by several groups.

“Mi-an,” 17, a native of Basi, Samar, lodged several complaints against Princess Revilla, younger sister of Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., for allegedly physically maltreating her with a broomstick.

The housemaid escaped from her employer’s house in the posh Valle Verde Subdivision and was “rescued” by village officials of Barangay (village) Ugong, Pasig City last June 11.

Irene Alogoc, one of the housemaid’s volunteer counsels, disclosed Tuesday that her client’s mother and aunt suddenly showed up during the preliminary investigation at the Pasig City Prosecutor’s Office last week and tried to convince the complainant to retract her affidavit.

Alogoc said they had filed cases of physical injuries, violation of Republic Act 7610 (Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act) and Republic Act (Anti-Child Labor Act) against Revilla, whose real name is Rebecca Bautista-Ocampo.

Alogoc said the victim’s mother, Erminia Arota, repeatedly asked her daughter “to just go home to Samar and forget about the case.”

She said the mother likewise tried to forcibly take her daughter away from the social workers who had been taking care of her since she fled Revilla’s house.

“The girl was very determined to pursue the case. She told her mother that she would not return to their province until her legal battle is over,” Alogoc said in a press briefing in Quezon City.

The lawyer also lambasted Revilla’s camp for allegedly peddling wrong information to the media in a bid to discredit those helping the housemaid, including the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Eva Lawas, DSWD social worker, said they were baffled by the presence of the complainant’s relatives at the preliminary hearing.

Lawas said they were surprised when they learned that Mi-an’s mother, sister, and two aunts boarded a plane from Samar so that they could attend the scheduled hearing last July 14.

She said the four were now staying at a hotel in Pasay City.

“Even the victim was puzzled by her mother’s attendance at the hearing. How could her mother afford to buy plane tickets and stay at a hotel when they couldn’t even buy a kilo of rice?” Lawas told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of INQUIRER.net.

Lawas, however, declined to comment when asked if Revilla might have contacted the victim’s mother and paid for her travel from Samar.

“I don’t want to speculate. But the girl said she was sure her mother already received a big sum of money from Revilla,” she said.

Meanwhile, Gabriela has thrown its support behind Mi-an after she sought the support of the militant women’s group.

Emmi de Jesus, Gabriela secretary general, said they received a handwritten letter from the victim asking for their assistance.

De Jesus said the victim’s experience mirrored the deplorable plight of more than 140,000 underage housemaids and child workers in the country.

“Social inequity battered [Mi-an] twice. First, instead of going to school, she was forced to work as a maid. Second, she had to endure the merciless torture in the hands of her privileged employer,” she read from a prepared statement.

‘Psywar Used vs Gumanoy Siblings’

July 21, 2008

As the Court of Appeals (CA) denied the petition for writ of habeas corpus for the Gumanoy siblings held by the Philippine Army, human rights groupS and children’s rights advocates decried the use of psywar tactics against the two. They said that threat and exploitation of poverty belied military’s claims of ‘voluntary custody.’

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Bulatlat
Volume VIII, No. 24, July 20-26, 2008

The Court of Appeals (CA) denied the petition for writ of habeas corpus, July 16, filed by Maria Gumanoy for the release of her daughters Fatima, 17 and Rose Ann, 21 held by the Philippine Army.

The two have been staying at the Fort Bonifacio General Hospital since July 3.

Justices Sesinando Villon, Jose Catral Mendoza and Andres Reyes decided in favor of military custody for the two siblings.

For the meantime

At the hearing, Fatima was asked by the justices where she wants to go; she replied, “Sa ate ko muna” (I will stay with my older sister for the meantime.)

Fr. Dionito Cabillas of the Services Department of human rights group Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) pointed out the word “muna” (for the meantime). “Ibig sabihin, gusto niya pa ring sumama sa nanay niya” (It means that she still wants to be with her mother eventually), he said.

Vices of consent

Atty. Ephraim Cortez, counsel for Maria and a member of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) said that based on the testimony of Fatima, there could have been vices of consent.

Cortez explained, “Kung pagbabasehan ang kwento niya [Fatima], kung nakatira siya sa apat na sulok na kwarto, kasama ang dalawang sundalo, obviously may effect na sa state of mind niya, kung paano siya magdedecide kung saan siya pupunta. Pagkagising sa umaga nandoon sila, bago matulog nandoon sila… Although ospital iyon, para silang prisoners dahil may gwardiya sila, military facility pa rin iyon” (Based on Fatima’s story, if she’s staying in a room with two soldiers, obviously, there is an effect to her state of mind, as to how she will decide where to go. Although it is a hospital, they can be considered as prisoners because they are closely guarded; still, it is a military facility), Cortez said.
Cortez said that women soldiers who identified themselves only as Weng and as Arcel have never left the two siblings. He noted that these women soldiers were also the ones who guarded Rose Ann when she was confined at the V. Luna Hospital in Quezon City.

Rose Ann was charged with rebellion when she was wounded in crossfire between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the New People’s Army (NPA). She has been released on bail last May 29.

He added, “In the light of those facts, we can say there are vices of consent. This means that it is highly possible that Fatima decided based on what these women soldiers were telling her.”

Cortez related that he moved to defer the examination of Fatima until the latter’s psychological state has been determined. He said it is important to know is the child is suffering from Stockholm syndrome or if a brainwashing occurred.

Wikipedia defines Stockholm Syndrome as a psychological response sometimes seen in an abducted hostage, in which the hostage shows signs of loyalty to the hostage-taker, regardless of the danger (or at least risk) in which the hostage has been placed.

Before giving weight to Fatima’s testimony, Cortez said that the court could have asked an expert to determine first if there are vices of consent. “Unfortunately, the court decided it is no longer needed,” he said.

Cabillas believed that the two have been put under pressure. He related that when they visited Fatima and Rose Ann a day before the hearing, Ruby Dumpit from the Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD) told Maria, “Okey naman pala ang buhay ng dalawa, bakit ‘di mo na lang pabayaan na doon na lang sila” (The two seemed okay. Why don’t you just leave them there?)

Cortez criticized Dumpit’s comment, saying, “Something is wrong with their interpretation of what is normal for the children.”

Cabillas said that the DSWD reinforced the pressure on Fatima and Rose Ann. He said that Col. Agapito Nagrampa of Civil Military Operations (CMO) unit of the Philippine Army was saying the same line.

Marie Hilao Enriquez, Karapatan secretary general, suspected that the meeting at the Fort Bonifacio clubhouse a day before the hearing aimed to prepare Fatima and Rose Ann for the CA’s hearing. She noted that Fatima, before answering any question from the justices, would look at the government officials present at the Fort Bonifacio meeting. Aside from Dumpit and Nagrampa, Assistant Solicitor General Amparo Cabotaje-Tang and the director of the Fort Bonifacio General Hospital and were also there, she said.

Military’s choice

Enriquez said that the Gumanoy siblings have been denied access to a lawyer and a doctor of their choice.

Enriquez said that the military provided a lawyer named Randy Vega for Fatima and Rose Ann. Referring to the lawyer, Enriquez said, “Wala namang ka-ethics-ethics ito, Atenista pa raw kuno siya. He did not even seek out the nanay,” (He has no ethics at all. He even said he graduated from Ateneo. He did not even seek out the mother.)

Enriquez retorted, “Choice lahat ng military ‘yan. ‘Tapos sasabihin nila, desisyon ng mga bata. Sino ba nag-decide kumuha ng abogado?” (It’s the military’s choice, not theirs. Then they will claim that it is the decision of the children. Who decided to get that lawyer in the first place?)

Torn

Eileck Mañano, a licensed social worker and a volunteer for the Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC), said that Fatima could have been torn between her mother and her sister.

Cabillas said,“Takot siyang iwanan ang ate niya. Kahit kahapon pa, sabi naming sumama na siya sa nanay niya, ang sabi niya, ‘Eh paano si ate?’ Inaalala niya ang ate niya. Maunawaan naman natin ang kanyang katayuan” (She is afraid to leave her older sister. Yesterday, when we told her to come with her mother, she said, ‘How about my sister?’ She is deeply concerned with her sister. We understand where she is coming from.)

Cabillas said that the military uses the rebellion case of Rose Ann against the two. “Iyon ang ipinapangako kay Rose Ann, di siya makukulong” (That is what they promised Rose Ann, that she will not get into prison), he said.

Enriquez said that Rose Ann asked her, “Hanggang kailan n’yo masisiguro ang kalayaan ko?” (Until when can you guarantee my freedom?)

Cortez deemed, however, that the military would not immediately drop the case against Rose Ann.

Mañano, who met Fatima years ago when the Gumanoy children were still internal refugees, related that Fatima used to be a happy child, always smiling and always telling stories.

She shared her observations on Fatima during the hearing, “Malungkot siya, walang sigla ang mga mata. Hindi siya kumportable sa sitwasyon” (She is sad, there is no glow in her eyes. She was not comfortable with the situation.)

Exploitation of poverty

Enriquez condemned the military’s “dirty tactics.” Karapatan showed Bulatlat a copy of a leaflet conspicuously posted near the CA compound at the day of the hearing.

The picture shows Fatima and Rose Ann with two women whose faces were intentionally blurred. The façade of a mall in Taguig City serves as the backdrop. Below is a caption, “Ganito pala ang buhay, masaya sa labas ng kilusan. Si Rose Ann ay isang NPA na tumakas sa poder ng Karapatan sa Quezon dahil sa mga kasinungalingang ipinangako sa kanila na mabubuo ang kanilang pamilya at malupit na pagtrato sa kanya sa isang safehouse” (There is happiness outside the movement. Rose Ann is a member of the NPA who escaped from the custody of Karapatan in Quezon because of the lies promised her that her family will be reunited and because of the maltreatment she experienced in a safehouse.)

Enriquez said she is certain that the faceless women are the same soldiers guarding the two siblings. The soldiers bought new cellphones for Fatima and Rose Ann. “This is exploitation of poverty, ang lupit nga eh… Pinapapasyal, dinadala sa marangyang lugar, na wala namang capacity ang family na maibigay ang ganito. Ito ang pambulag sa kanila… Nakakaawa ang sitwasyon ng dalawang bata.” (… so cruel… They are being taken to malls, places for the affluent which the family cannot send them to. This is how they are being deceived… I feel sorry for the two children.)

She said the military also wants the children to forget what was done to their father. Eddie Gumanoy was killed in April 2003 by suspected elements of the AFP under the command of the Col. Jovito Palparan Jr.

These psywar tactics, Enriquez said, form part of the Arroyo government’s counter-insurgency program na Oplan Bantay Laya I and II.

Pattern

Cabillas said, “Ang pamamaraan ng military to take over, dukutin muna nila tapos sabihin nila, nag-seek ng voluntary custody sa kanila. Iyon ang tactic nila sa amparo actually” (For the military to take over, they first abduct the victims then they will say that the victims sought their custody voluntarily. This is actually their tactic on cases of amparo.)

He cited the cases of Bustamante at Roel Muñasque, Pagadian City, October 2007. Bustamante, Davao City. Cabillas said that in both cases, the victims’ testimonies showed that they were held under duress. They were soon reunited with their respective families.

Cabillas said that in the case of Fatima, the problem was that the mother and her daughter were not allowed to talk to each other. He said that Cortez’ first motion is to let Maria and her two children talk in private before the hearing begins. The court, however, denied the request.

Mother’s anguish

Maria was obviously upset with the court’s decision. She could not even eat after the hearing. She said repeatedly, “Ako ang nanay. Ako ang may karapatan sa mga anak ko” (I am the mother. I have the right to take custody of my daughters.)

Enriquez said that Attorney Cortez had to remind the justices that Fatima is a minor but the justices opted to believe the solicitor general who claimed that the two are not being kept against their will.

Maria was never given the opportunity to testify before the court.

In a statement, Helen Asdolo, GABRIELA-Southern Tagalog secretary-general, said, “Nanay Maria’s right as a mother has been violated. Fatima is a minor and Nanay Maria has every right to be with her.”

Asdolo criticized the collusion of CA and AFP.

Enriquez said, “Kung maayos talaga sila [militar], bakit nila ipinagkait ang pagdalaw ng nanay? Ang ginawa, tinago nila. Ang tanong ko, for what purpose? Gagawin niyo bang Jelyn Dayong iyan si Rose Ann?” (If the military have good intentions, why did they deny the mother to visit her children? They hid the daughters. I ask, for what purpose? Do they want to make Rose Ann another Jelyn Dayong?)

Dayong was captured by the military by the AFP after an encounter with the NPA in Surigao del Norte in 1999. She was later recruited to the AFP.

Tanggulan, a youth network for human rights and civil liberties, shared the same fear. In a statement, the group said that the AFP might be concocting a scenario by holding Fatima Gumanoy, a minor, under military custody in time for the United Nations Special Representative on Child Soldiers visit in the country this August.

Enriquez said that Karapatan could not be blamed for searching for Fatima and Rose Ann. She said that amid the spate of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, they fear that the two might be victims, especially after the military charged Rose Ann as an NPA fighter.

She asked, “Sino ang hindi titingin sa context ng counter-insurgency operations sa ginawa ng Army? (Who will not look at the context of counter-insurgency operations in the light of the actions of the Army?) Are the justices not aware that the military uses coercion against victims of human rights violations?” Bulatlat

Women’s Front: Innabuyog urges the Vicariate and CBCP to sanction erring priest

July 19, 2008

By INNABUYOG-GABRIELA

Today is the second year anniversary of Beth’s (not her real name) rape by Fr. Gabriel Madangeng of the Bontoc-Lagawe Vicariate. She was 14 years old at the time of the incident that happened in Natonin Mission Convent on July 8, 2006. She filed a complaint with the NBI-CAR office on December 27, 2006.

On August 3 will also be the second year anniversary of the Ana’s (not her real name) rape by the same priest. This happened at the Sta. Rita Parish Convent in Bontoc, Mountain Province. She was repeatedly raped, the last incident was in December 11, 2006. She filed a formal complaint with PNP in Bontoc on February 26, 2007.

Both cases are now in the courts in Bontoc, Mountain Province.

Innabuyog extends its support to the families of the victims and to those who are giving the moral support for them to pursue their cases. Both victims, including another one, are minors.

These cases of sexual offense are an affront to the dignity of a person, especially women. The offense is made heavier by the fact that the perpetrator is a man of the cloth, by that makes him a person in authority and who exploited the innocence and fragile state of the victims. The sexual offense, noting that the incidents were repeatedly committed outrage not only the physical but the moral sense as well. These acts reinforce women’s low status in society and the perception that they are weak, vulnerable and no more than a sex object.

In the victims’ pursuit for justice, wholeness and peace of mind, Innabuyog urges the Bontoc-Lagawe Vicariate, the Conference of Bishops in the Philippines (CBCP) and the Commission of Clergy to apply the Pastoral Guidelines on Sexual Abuses and Misconduct by the Clergy which the CBCP drafted in 1995. We urge the Vicariate to apply its blanket authority by immediately suspending the erring priest, do the needed disciplinary action on him as a man of the cloth and subject him to psychological evaluation and processing.

Considering the trauma that the minor victims continue to undergo, we urge the Vicariate to apologize to the victims, their families and the congregation as part of the healing process. The Vicariate must likewise look into the psycho-social re-estabilization of the victims and their families. Innabuyog believes that by doing so that the Vicariate upholds its mission at sustaining life and dignity of humanity. #(NorDis)

Women’s Front: Arroyo lacks concern for Filipinos abroad

July 19, 2008

By INNABUYOG-GABRIELA

Innabuyog came across a news item in the Internet which reads:

The Arroyo government’s deafening silence on the European Union’s newly adopted directive on return of illegal immigrants proves its lack of concern for Filipinos abroad, according to Gabriela Women’s Party representatives.

“It is unsettling how President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo seems unfazed by EU’s repressive `return directive’. It is unthinkable how her government can sit around while tens of thousands of Filipinos are in danger of being detained in foreign jails and subjected to human rights violations,” Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda C. Ilagan said.

The directive, which was approved on first reading on June 18, permits EU-member countries to detain third-country nationals without proper documents for up to 18 months prior to deportation. If enforced in 2010, it will affect more than 94,000 Filipinos, including women and children.

“What is scary about this new directive is that it treats undocumented immigrants worse than criminals. Men, women and children can be jailed without trials and means, in violation of several universal rights and laws,” Ilagan said.

Ilagan advised Arroyo to follow the example of Latin American leaders who demanded the European community to immediately repeal the new law. The presidents of Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru consider the new law as discriminatory and condemned the European Parliament for its passage. Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez even made threats of cutting off oil exports to the continent.

The Gabriela Partylist representatives also urge the government to undertake immediate measures to protect not only the Filipinos threatened to be expelled from Europe but also those in other parts of the world. Last week, the Malaysian government expressed its plans to chase illegal migrants, many of whom are Filipinos, out of Sabah.

“These undocumented immigrants were forced to leave the Philippines and enter a foreign country at their own risk because of their need for jobs which the Philippine government failed to provide,” Ilagan said.

Innabuyog-Gabriela cannot help but be saddened with the news knowing that a considerable number of Cordillera overseas Filipino workers, mostly women, are in several countries in Europe. Like expatriates from other regions of the country, these Cordillerans left the countryside for the city to look for greener pastures but ended up queuing in foreign embassy offices for tourist or visas other than employment, but were then actually looking for jobs.

In the foreign country they get whatever job that they could lay their hands on not minding the prestige of the profession they have earlier earned in the Philippines. #(NorDis)

Pope’s Australia sex abuse apology not enough — critics

July 19, 2008

Agence France-Presse
First Posted 13:26:00 07/19/2008

SYDNEY — Pope Benedict XVI’s apology for sex abuse by Australian clergymen does not go far enough to address the problems of victims, critics said Saturday.

The pope earlier apologized fully to victims of predatory priests for the first time, saying in a homily in a Sydney cathedral he was “deeply sorry” and calling for perpetrators of the “evil” to be brought to justice.

But Broken Rites, a victims’ support group staging demonstrations during the pope’s visit for World Youth Day celebrations which have brought 200,000 pilgrims to Sydney, said the apology was inadequate.

“Sorry may be a start but we want to see a lot more,” spokeswoman Chris MacIsaac said.

“We want the victims to be treated fairly, we don’t want them to feel that they have been shut out, we don’t want them to be re-abused by church authorities,” she said.

The parents of two daughters abused by a priest in Melbourne described the apology as disappointing.

Anthony and Christine Foster had returned from a British holiday in the hope of meeting the pope to press for better treatment for victims.

The Fosters’ daughter Emma committed suicide this year aged 26, after struggling to deal with abuse by a Melbourne priest at a primary school.

Her sister Katie, who was also abused, turned to alcohol in her teens and was left brain-damaged after being hit by a car while drunk.

Anthony Foster said the couple’s first reaction to the papal apology was disappointment.

“They are only words — the same thing we’ve been hearing for 13 years. It is simply an apology, there is nothing practical there which is what we were looking for,” he said.

At a Sydney demonstration against Catholic church policies, Wayne Elliott, who said he was a victim of child abuse but not by priests, also condemned the apology as insufficient.

“It is frankly not worth the paper it is written on. They need to do far more than that and they should have apologized a long time before,” he said.

But the apology received support from the Premier of the state of New South Wales Morris Iemma, who told Sky News he hoped the apology would be a turning point.

“Hopefully it will be a sign of righting the wrongs of the past and of a better future and better treatment by the church of the victims and their families, said Iemma.

Broken Rites says 107 Catholic priests and religious brothers have been sentenced in Australian courts on sex charges, and Australian bishops apologized for past abuses in 2002.(PDI)

Bulnerable sa kampus

July 17, 2008

Kenneth Roland A. Guda

NAKITA sa dalawang prominenteng kaso ng gang rape ng dalawang babaing estudyante ng PUP (Politeknikong Unibersidad ng Pilipinas) sa Sta. Mesa at UPHS (University of the Perpetual Help System) sa Cavite kung gaano kabulnerable ang kababaihan sa sekuwal na atake sa loob ng kanilang mga kampus.

Pebrero 14 ginahasa diumano ng pinaghihinalaang mga kaeskuwela niya ang estudyante sa Cavite, pero kamakailan lang niya napag-alamang ikinalat pala ng mga salarin ang isang bidyo ng panggagahasa.

Samantala, sa PUP, noong Hunyo 25 at 26 diumano ginahasa ng humigit-kumulang 15 kaeskuwela ang freshman na estudyante sa loob mismo ng kampus. Ayon sa biktima, binidyo rin diumano ng mga salarin ang panggagahasa sa kanya.

Sa dalawang kaso, nakitang kumpiyansa ang mga salarin na hindi sila mananagot sa krimen kahit pa makita ang kanilang mga mukha sa bidyo. Para sa Gabriela, militanteng organisasyong pangkababaihan, ipinapamalas lamang ng dalawang kasong ito kung gaano kahina ang sistema ng hustisya, laluna sa mga kaso ng kababaihang biktima ng abuso.

Banta sa eskuwela

Bulnerable ang kababaihan sa pang-aabuso sa kapwa mga kaeskuwela sa UPHS na may kumpiyansang hindi sila mananagot sa panggagahasa. Pebrero 14 nang niyaya diumano ng mga kaeskuwela ang 17-taong-gulang na biktima sa isang piging sa labas ng kampus. Nilasing ang biktima at saka ginahasa ng apat na kalalakihang pawang menor de edad.

Ang masama pa, napag-alaman ng biktima sa isa pang kaeskuwela na kumakalat sa internet ang bidyo ng krimen. Sinabi pa ng kanyang ama na nakita at nakabili pa siya ng kopya ng bidyo sa tindahan ng piniratang mga DVD sa Quiapo.

Sa PUP naman, wala umanong pasok noong Hunyo 25, pero nagkita-kita pa rin ang mga magkakaeskuwela, kasama ang biktima, sa klasrum. Pinainom ng mga kaeskuwela niya ang biktima ng di-pa-matukoy na droga at saka ginahasa. Naulit pa umano ang panggagahasa kinabukasan.

Hulyo 3 nang pasukin ng nakasibilyang mga pulis, kasama ang midya, ang isang klasrum sa PUP. Kasama ang biktima, pinosasan, inaresto nang walang mandamyento at mistulang ipinarada sa kampus ang mga salarin. Ayon sa mga saksi, hindi itinuro ng biktima ang hinuling mga estudyante. Kinumpirma lamang ng pulis batay sa pangalan nila.

Kinumpirma ng mediko-legal na eksaminasyon sa biktima na ginahasa nga siya.

Imbestigasyon

Samantala, iginigiit ng pulisya na isang underground fraternity ang nagpasimuno ng panggagahasa. Sinabi ni Sta. Mesa Police Station Chief Superintendent Jimmy Tiu na sinabi sa kanila ito ng biktima. Ngunit hanggang sa pagkakasulat ng artikulo, hindi makumpirma ang ipormasyong ito.

Kung kaya panawagan ngayon ng Gabriela Women’s Party na masusing imbestigahan ang kaso at huwag magpadalusdalos. Ayon kay Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza, “Kailangang tiyakin ang mabilisan at masinsing imbestigayon ng pulisya at ng PUP University Committee sa kaso ng gang rape sa PUP. Dapat managot ang mga salarin.”

Iginiit din ni Maza na tiyaking maging “masinop at hindi padaskul-daskol” ang mga pulisya sa imbestigasyon lalupa’t pawang mga minor de edad ang mga sangkot at apektado.

Nagbuo ng fact-finding team ang administrasyon ng PUP para imbestigahan ang kaso, laluna’t nangyari ito sa loob ng kampus. Ayon kay Dr. Dante Guevarra, pangulo ng PUP, “Ito ang dahilan kung bakit nilikha ko ang isang fact-finding committee – para tingnan nang malalim ang problema na nakakaapekto hindi lamang sa loob ng komunidad ng PUP kundi sa buong akademikong komunidad din.”

Pero hindi basta-basta gustong palusutin ng Gabriela ang administrasyon ng PUP. Ayon kay Maza, “Hindi dapat makalimutang may pananagutan rin ang administrasyon ng PUP lalupa’t naganap ito sa loob mismo ng kampus.”

Sinabi ng Gabriela na repleksiyon lamang ang aksiyon ng mga salarin ng namamayaning pagtingin sa kababaihan bilang seksuwal na kasangkapan. Repleksiyon din ang dalawang kaso ng kainutilan ng sistema ng hustisya at kung papaano nagiging kampante ang mga kriminal na gumawa ng krimen dahil sa mahinang sistema ng hustisya.

Bilang panimulang hakbang, iminungkahi ni Maza na palakasin sa mga kampus ang “Women and Gender Desks.” “Magiging malaking tulong ang mga naturang tanggapan para tiyakin ang proteksiyon, counselling at pagbibigay hustisya sa mga kababaihang estudyanteng biktima ng sexual harassment, panggagahasa at pangmomolestiya,” sabi pa ni Maza.

May ulat sina Jean Campos, Rodalyn Capilo at Mary Rose Retrita(PinoyWeekly)

Pinagkaitan ng katahimikan

July 17, 2008

Ilang-Ilang D. Quijano

Ang menor-de-edad na si Fatima Gumanoy (kaliwa) at kanyang kapatid na si Rose Ann, parehong nasa kustodiya ng AFP.

MATATAG na tao ang pagkakakilala ni Maria Gumanoy sa kanyang 21-anyos na panganay na si Rose Ann. Katulad ng kanyang pinaslang na ama. Kaya inalagaan at ipinagtanggol ni Rose Ann ang kanyang pamilya nang hinaharas ito ng mga sundalo sa kanilang tinitirahan sa Quezon. Nang siya ay mabaril sa isang operasyong militar at kasuhan ng rebelyon noong Abril, hindi siya nakipagtulungan sa militar – sa kabila ng halos oras-oras na pananakot habang nagpapagamot sa V. Luna Medical Center. Nang dinukot siya at ang kanyang 17-anyos na kapatid na si Fatima noong Hulyo 3, hindi pa rin siya agad-agad na bumigay.

“Sa harapan ko mismo ay nakita ko na pinapipirma ng bantay na militar sina Rose at Fatima sa isang papel na nagsasaad na sila ay hindi dinukot at kusang loob na pumunta sa kanila. Sa kabila ng takot at kahit nag-iiyak, hindi pumirma sina Fatima at Rose Ann,” sabi ni Maria. Tinutukoy ni Maria ang pagbisita sa kanyang mga anak sa Fort Bonifacio General Hospital noong Hulyo 6, dalawang araw matapos umamin ang AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) na nasa pangangalaga nila ang dalawang kabataan.

Kaya nang humarap sa isang press conference si Rose Ann kasama ang mga opisyal ng AFP noong Hulyo 10 para pabulaanan na dinukot sila ng militar at sabihing kusa silang lumapit dito para humingi ng proteksiyon, alam na ni Maria ang nangyari. Natakot si Rose Anne para kay Fatima na ngayo’y mistulang “hostage,” ayon sa Karapatan, grupong pangkarapatang pantao na nangangalaga sa pamilya Gumanoy.

Anak sina Rose Ann at Fatima ni Eddie Gumanoy, tagapangulo ng Kasama-TK (Katipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan). Dinukot at pinatay noong Abril 22, 2003 ang kanilang ama, kasama si Eden Marcellana, pangkalahatang kalihim ng Karapatan-Southern Tagalog, habang nasa isang fact-finding mission sa Mindoro Oriental.

Binansagan ng militar na rebelde si Eddie bago siya tuluyang pinatay ng pinaghihinalaang mga tauhan ni Hen. Jovito Palparan. Pero hindi na pa rin natahimik ang pamilya Gumanoy. Patuloy silang inakusahang mga NPA (New People’s Army), tinakot, at tinugis. Rurok nito ang diumano’y ilegal na detensiyon ng isang menor-de-edad at pagkakait sa isang ina ng kanyang mga karapatan sa mga anak.

Sakit at takot

“Malapit si Rose Ann sa tatay niya. Nagrebelde ’yung kanyang kalooban nang pinatay ’yung tatay niya na hindi naman masamang tao at napakabait, pinatay nang wala namang dahilan…’Yun na nga ang nakapagtataka doon. Sundalo ang pumatay sa tatay nila tapos ngayon sasabihin na sa kanila humingi ng tulong. Ganun naman talaga ’yung militar. Binabaliktad (ang kuwento) dahil hawak nila,” ani Maria.

Walang dahilan ang AFP na hawakan si Fatima na walang kaso, maliban sa paliwanag ni Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner, tagapasalita ng AFP, na mayroon itong German measles (tigdas) kaya patuloy na ginagamot. Pero hinala ni Maria, anuman ang sakit na dumapo sa kanyang anak, kagagawan ito mismo ng AFP.

Noong Hulyo 3, makikipagtagpo sana ang magkapatid sa kanilang ina sa Metropolis mall sa Alabang. Galing sila sa General Nakar, Quezon kung saan nagpapagaling si Rose Ann sa sugat sa kaliwang braso. Si Fatima ang nag-alaga sa kay Rose Ann, mula sa V. Luna Medical Center hanggang sa mailipat siya sa Quezon Provicial Jail at makapagpiyansa noong Mayo 29. Nag-text si Rose Ann sa kanyang ina noong tanghali na “may sumusunod” sa kanila. Bandang alas-kuwatro ng hapon, nag-text ito muli para sabihing kinuha sila ng militar at nasa Camp Aguinaldo.

Kinabukasan, pumunta sina Maria at mga taga-Karapatan sa opisina ng Isafp (Intelligence Service of the AFP) para hanapin ang dalawa. Itinanggi ng Isafp na nasa kanila ang mga ito. Pero kinagabihan, inamin ni Col. Ernesto Torres, tagapagsalita ng Philippine Army, na hawak nila sa Fort Bonifacio sina Rose Ann at Fatima.

Hulyo 5, agad silang pinuntahan nina Maria. Mahigit tatlong oras silang naghintay bago hinarap ng isang opisyal na nagsabing nasa ospital ng kampo ang dalawa. Pero bago papasukin si Maria sa kuwarto ni Fatima, kuwento niya: “Kinapkapan ako. Hinatak pababa ang aking pantalon at panty, pati ang aking puwet ay tiningnan ng stethoscope at tinusok-tusok ng stick ang aking hita ng doktor na hindi nagpakilala.”

Dalawang sundalo na nakilala lamang sa pangalang Weng at Arcel ang nakabantay sa bata. Naghanda na ng gamit si Fatima para sumama sa kanyang ina. Pero nang palabas na sila, hinatak si Fatima ng doktor at sinabing hindi siya puwedeng lumabas. Dahilan ng di-nagpakilalang doktor kay Maria, may Urinary Tract Infection ang bata. Hindi niya pinayagan ang ina na ilipat na lamang ng ospital si Fatima, at sinabihang bumalik na lamang kinabukasan.

Pero pagbalik ni Maria, iba na ang hitsura ni Fatima. Nakaratay siya at maraming pantal sa katawan. Nangingitim ang labi, maputla ang mga paa. Kulay ube ang gilid ng kanyang talampakan, at malamig na malamig ang mga binti nito. Allergy raw ito, sabi kay Maria ng doktor—hindi German measles, tulad ng opisyal na pahayag ng AFP. Wala namang maipakitang medical record ang doktor na magpapatunay sa kung ano ang tunay na sakit ng bata.

Noon din nakita ni Maria ang sapilitang pagpipirma ni Weng ng affidavit sa kanyang dalawang anak. Kinuhanan din ng bidyo ang ina at kasamahan niyang mga miyembro ng Karapatan. Ayon pa kay Maria, “Bawat salita ni Fatima, nakatingin sa sundalo. Tapos ’yung sundalo ang sumasagot kahit hindi naman siya yung tinatanong ko, sinasabi niyang ‘ayaw talaga nanay sumama ni Fatima sa iyo.’ Samantalang di naman nagsasalita ang bata. Kaya yun ang (hinala) ko, na tinatakot si Fatima.”

Hindi na muling pinayagang pumasok si Maria sa ospital nang may kasama, kahit pa ang kanyang pinsan na si Emily na pinagbintangan ng mga sundalo na “pakawala ng Karaparatan.” Natatakot naman si Maria na pumasok sa ospital nang mag-isa.

Panghaharas, noon at ngayon

Ramdam na ng pamilya Gumanoy ang panghaharas ng militar bago pa man pinatay si Eddie, na aktibo noon sa laban ng mga magsasaka ng niyog laban sa resikada. Kaya napilitan silang umalis sa Quezon noong 2001. “’Yung ikaw lang ay magpahayag, ipaglaban mo ang karapatan mo bilang magsasaka, sa lupa, pinagbintangan na nila na NPA (ang asawa ko) hanggang sa mawala na siya. Hanggang ngayon malaki yung epekto sa amin ng pangyayari. Nasusundan pa rin kami kahit saang lugar kami magtago,” sabi ni Maria.

Noong 2004, bumalik muli sa Quezon ang pamilya. Naroon lamang ang kanilang tanging ikinabubuhay. Nakikisaka si Maria o di kaya’y nagkakaingin. Anim ang kanyang anak kay Eddie, lahat menor-de-edad maliban kina Rose Ann at 19-anyos na si Daniel. Natigil ang karamihan sa pag-aaral nang mamatay ang ama. “Si Rose Ann, maaalalahanin sa magulang at sa mga kapatid. Ganoon din si Fatima. Siya yung tumutulong sa akin noong hindi pa ako nag-aasawa ulit.”

Pero makailang beses silang binisita ng mga militar. Inaakusahan nilang NPA sina Rose Ann at Daniel. Hinahalughog ang kanilang bahay at pilit isinasama si Maria sa kampo. Noong Hulyo 2006, ayon kay Maria, kinausap pa siya ni Lt. Gerry Mangalos ng 16th Infantry Brigade na naka-base noon sa Mindoro Oriental. Umano’y inamin mismo ni Mangalos na yunit nila ang pumatay kay Eddie.

Muling napilitang lumikas ang pamilya noong Enero ngayong taon. “Sosonahin daw yung aming lugar tapos talagang hinahanap na talaga ako. Kung hindi ako umalis doon baka ako na yung hinawakan ng mga sundalo para lang sumulpot ang aking mga anak na basta ang alam ko, nasa Pampanga,” ani Maria.

Umano’y tumutulong ang dalawa sa tindahan ng kanilang tiyuhin doon at dapat sana’y pag-aaralin na. Bumalik sa Quezon si Rose Ann para ipamalita ito sa ina, nang siya ay maipit sa isang engkuwentro noong Abril 15 habang nasa bahay ng isang kaibigan. Sugatan ang mga sibilyan na sina Merie Carcer, 50, at anak nitong si Christine, 7. Napatay naman si Monica Carcer, 13, na inaakusahan ng AFP na rebelde.

Labag sa karapatan

Kinondena ng Karapatan, Gabriela Women’s Party, at mga grupong nagtataguyod sa karapatan ng mga bata ang detensiyon kay Fatima. Labag umano ito sa Article 10 ng Republic Act 7610 o Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act. Nakasaad sa Article 10 na “zones of peace” ang mga batang naiipit sa digmaang sibil at dapat iginagalang ang mga karapatan.

“Dapat kagyat at walang kondisyong pakawalan si Fatima ng AFP. Wala siyang kaso at di dapat hinahawakan ng militar. Kung totoo ngang may sakit siya, lalo niyang kailangan ang kalinga ng kanyang ina,” sabi ni Alphonse Rivera, tagapagsalita ng Salinlahi o Alliance for Children’s Concerns.

Ayon pa kay Eilek Manano, isang social worker ng Children’s Rehabilitation Center, hindi pa tuluyang naghihilom ang sugat ng pamilya Gumanoy dahil sa pagkamatay ni Eddie at panghaharas sa kanila ng militar. “Anong moral ground ng AFP para sabihing inaalala nila ang kapakanan ng magkapatid?”

Tuluyan namang nawalan na ng kumpiyansa si Maria sa militar. “Sobrang mapagbintang sila sa mga sibilyan na wala namang kasalanan. Di na lang nila hanapin ’yung tunay nilang kalaban, kundi sibilyan yung mas higit na naaapektuhan. Hindi pa nga nabigyan ng katarungan yung asawa ko, tapos yan na naman.”

Sa kabila ng positibong pagkilala ng mga testigo, ibinasura ng Department of Justice noong 2007 ang kaso laban sa mga suspek sa pagpatay kina Eddie at Marcellana na sina M/Sgt. Donald Caigas, Aniano “Ka Silver” Flores, at Richard “Waway” Falla.

Matatag man ang kanyang mga anak, alam ni Maria na bata pa rin sina Fatima at Rose Ann – may espesyal silang mga karapatan na matindi ang epekto kapag niyurakan. Sabik na siyang muling makapiling ang mga anak. At mabuhay nang tahimik ang kanyang pamilyang mistulang ginigiyera nang walang kalaban-laban.(PinoyWeekly)


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