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Women say yes to peace talks, no to martial law

/ 05:10 AM July 13, 2017

Filipino women have been suffering for decades under a succession of governments who have promised change. Genuine social change, however, never came. Governments came and went, but the same social problems remained — kleptocracy, the plunder of our country’s resources, widespread poverty, joblessness, landlessness, low wages.

Women became modern slaves, laboring without end  in a futile attempt to ward off hunger and homelessness; suffering the lack of support services for their own basic needs; experiencing grave abuses of their human rights in the hands of men in uniform as they defend their land, their homes and their communities from local and foreign big business; experiencing sexual and other forms of violence against their person.

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Women had high hopes when President Duterte came into power, even taking an active role when peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front  of the Philippines and the government began.

We anticipated the realization of the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (Caser) as a possible way to peace, a possible avenue for reforms in the fundamental issues of the nation, which  are also the fundamental issues of women: land reform, expanded basic social services, national industrialization, an end to low wages and contractualization.

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A sudden turn of events, however,  threatens to put these initiatives into the dustbin. The government panel canceled the fifth round of the peace talks. The declaration of martial law in  Mindanao worsened the climate of impunity with which the Armed Forces commit human rights abuses against peasant and indigenous communities.

Government response to the Marawi siege has turned severely out of proportion, with ground assaults and  indiscriminate aerial bombings causing massive destruction and innumerable loss of lives. It is now a war against terror that has itself sown terror among the people of Marawi. A war gone awry, whose consequences are bound to fall heavily on women’s shoulders as they struggle to rebuild what is left of their previous homes and communities.

The entry of  US military forces into what should be a purely Philippine military and police operation in Marawi runs counter to the Duterte administration’s pronouncement of adopting an  independent foreign policy. US intervention threatens to turn our country into another laboratory for a US-defined war, a war with no clear parameters and no clear boundaries.

As if these weren’t enough, President Duterte’s own callousness, as shown by his seemingly habitual  jokes about rape and  disrespectful treatment of women, abets his allies’  misogynist attitude  and the Armed Forces’ impunity in violating women’s human rights.

Women have had enough!

We demand genuine change. We demand respect and guarantees for women’s human rights. We urge the Duterte government to carry out its pronouncements for a truly independent foreign policy.

There can be no real peace without social justice. We call for the resumption of the peace talks and demand a successful conclusion to Caser. End Martial Law Now!

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MO. MARY JOHN MANANZAN, OSB, Institute of Women’s Studies, CARMENCITA P. KARAGDAG,  Ecumenical Women’s Forum, GERT RANJO-LIBANG, Gabriela National, DARLENE MARQUEZ-CARAMANZANA, Association of Women in Theology and WOMEN FROM VARIOUS GROUPS, c/o [email protected]

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TAGS: Inquirer letters, Inquirer Opinion, Marawi siege, Mary John Mananzan, Mindanao martial law, Rodrigo Duterte Filipino women, Social Change
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