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At Large

‘We will not be intimidated’

That is the title of a statement, prepared and vetted, and then signed and authorized for release by 31 women, all holders of The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service (TOWNS) award.

TOWNS is a grouping of women, achievers all, who have undertaken projects for the betterment of the nation and who, when the times call for it, issue public statements to express concern, indignation, maybe even anger, at events taking place here. Just a glimpse at the title and you can guess the collective mood that prompted the issuance of this statement. Though not official, the statement, it is hoped, will attract more signatories among the TOWNSwomen.

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Here is the statement in full:

In a series of disturbing moves, the Duterte government has shown its real purpose: to intimidate the public into submission. It is not accidental that his worst assaults have been against women, strong women who speak their mind and stand their ground.

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Last year, we witnessed the filing of impeachment charges against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, the unjust detention of Senator Leila de Lima, the threat of impeachment against Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, and the sidelining of Vice President Leni Robredo.

Now, just two weeks into 2018, Duterte has moved against two other strong women: Patricia Licuanan who was forced to resign as chairperson of the Commission on Higher Education six months before her term expires, and Rappler, the news website operated by award winning journalist Maria Ressa (and her team composed mostly of women—RJD).

We are Filipino women leaders, members of The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service, and we decry these assaults on our democratic freedoms.

Patricia Licuanan is a tireless advocate of excellence in higher education, whose efforts at raising Philippine education to international standards have borne fruit. Her unceremonious dismissal on dubious charges smacks of putrid politics, not to mention bad governance.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, taking its cue from higher authorities that have voiced displeasure with the independent reporting of Rappler in this age of fake news, has revoked Rappler’s license over what it claims to be a violation of the Constitution, for supposedly circumventing its foreign ownership restrictions.

What this really is, is harassment by government for Rappler’s truthful reporting on the actual state of the nation. This unprecedented move by the SEC is an attack on freedom of expression, one of the inviolable freedoms protected by the Bill of Rights enshrined in the Constitution (Article III, Section 4), along with freedom of religion, speech, and association.  Such action is unconscionable and is anathema in a democratic society.

We take note of the frequency of acts of harassment and intimidation against citizens—women leaders in particular—who are doing their jobs with competence, dignity and integrity. We stand with them in the defense of our rights and freedoms.

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We will not be intimidated.  We invite other women—and men—of conviction to stand with us in condemning these assaults on our democracy.

I guess you already know that being a practitioner of a profession that is under threat these days in these parts, and, more particularly, writing for a publication that has frequently come under withering fire from the President, I am one of the signatories.

I signed not just as a woman and a journalist, but also as a citizen, a wife, a mother and a grandmother alarmed at the assaults on our democratic institutions, the rapid deterioration of our nation’s values, not to mention the manners of the (mostly) men in our political leadership. While for now it’s been mainly media (with the execrable exemption of the National Press Club—boo to you!) and women’s groups who’ve issued public statements on Duterte’s assault on women officials, I wait with bated breath for others — men especially, but also civic groups, schools, churches and communities — to speak up and speak out and tell the President that “No, we will not be intimidated!”

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TAGS: At Large, Patricia Licuanan, Rina Jimenez-David, Rodrigo Duterte, TOWNS
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