Women’s Front: Break the culture of silence towards social justice & peace


As the world observes the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (IDEVAW), we call on President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and his administration to take and implement all necessary measures for the protection of women and children from any form of abuse, to end human rights violations, and pursue peace based on justice.

Benigno Aquino III’s regime and that of those before him shaped a political, economic, and social condition where women and children are vulnerable to abuses, hence the long list of women victims of violence. Moreover, they have intensified attacks against women human rights defenders. We join their ranks in drumbeating their quest for justice which has proven too elusive under different political slogans despite various international and local instruments recognizing and protecting the rights of women.

We recall that the observance of IDEVAW is inspired by the killings of the Mirabal sisters who dared to stand up against the political rule and dictatorship of General Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic on November 25, 1960. Their deaths turned them into symbols of both popular and feminist resistance making them the “Unforgettable Butterflies”.

With the clamor of social movements all over the world for justice and elimination of all forms of violence against women (VAW), the United Nations was then pushed to declare November 25 as the IDEVAW in 1999. November 25 also marks the start of the “16 Days of Activism,” that precedes Human Rights Day on December 10, against gender-based violence which aims to raise awareness and galvanize actions to end all forms of VAW.

Data on the abuses against women and children

According to Center for Women’s Resource, there is a 92% increase in the number of rape cases from 5,132 in 2010 to 9,875 in 2014 in which 7 of 10 victims are children. That means 1 woman or child is raped every 53 minutes. Furthermore, there is a 219% increase in cases against RA 9262 or the Anti-Violence against Women and their Children from 10,000 in 2010 to 31,927 in 2014. Cases of Sexual Harassment and Acts of Lasciviousness are not yet included.

In the Cordillera, Innabuyog’s study shows an increase in rape cases from 2011-2014, wherein the highest was in 2013. Of the cases, 54% is rape and 29% of which is incest; 35% is physical abuse and 11% is sexual harassment. In Baguio City, the Women and Children Protection Desk of the Baguio City Police Office recorded a 112 increase in the number of VAWC and rape cases in the city from 1,746 in 2014 to 1,858 in 2015. This year, Innabuyog documented 41 cases of violence against women and children in the region where 23 of the victims are children; 2 cases are military-perpetrated violence.

While the data is alarming, it is still conservative. According to the 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey, only 3 of 10 victims sought help to stop violence; 27% told someone but never sought help, 38% never sought help and never told anyone, 5% don’t know/missing and 30% sought help to stop violence. Furthermore, government records showed that of the 9,445 rape cases reported, only 59% were filed in court. This only reflect a strong culture of silence and tolerance for abuse or violence against women and children. Victims were usually discouraged in pursuing their cases because of the expensive litigation and the slow judicial process especially that most of them belong to the lowest wealth quintile.

The persistent poverty continues to cultivate violence against women and children. Based on the 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey, women from low wealth quintile are more vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse than women from high wealth quintile. Their indigent condition made them more vulnerable to abuses and sexual exploitation.

A culture of impunity also prevailed especially in the crimes committed by state authorities. According to Karapatan, there are 10 women victims of rape by the military from 2010 to November 2015. Children and indigenous women were the usual victims. Who could forget the case of then 16-year old Isabel from the mining town of Mankayan who was raped by a certain Capt. Danilo Lalin in 2012? Until now, justice has not yet been served. The reluctance of the government to address this issue validates these types of human rights violations for the perpetrator to carry on.

Women human rights defend her

At present, the Mirabal sisters’ legacy of courage despite the brutality they were forced to face is continued by women all over the world. Here in the Cordilleras, women human rights defenders are steadfast at forwarding national democracy, social justice and equality in the face of heightened state fascism.

Such is the case of Brenda Doco, a member of Binnadang-Innabuyog Mt. Province, who continues to defend the dignity and rights of children in Sagada amidst the political persecution carried out against her. Recently, she along with at least 30 women of Sagada arrested a certain Vishok Conanda Yogi for sexually abusing at least 9 young girls and boys.

Before bringing to the police station, they paraded him in the town center while holding placards containing the calls “No to Violence against Women and Children” and “Protect the Children, They are the Hope of the Motherland.” The children and their families have spoken, yet the police allowed the perpetrator to leave just because the arrest does not conform to the law. Worst, the police blamed the women especially Brenda for interfering with the process. They have also facilitated a robbery case filed against Brenda for an alleged missing laptop of the perpetrator.

Other cases include the political persecution, threat, intimidation, and harassment committed by state forces against Innabuyog vice-chairperson Beatrice Belen, Connie Hapulon, the Secretary-General of Ub-ubon di Binnabai ad Ifugao (UBI), along with Claudine Panayo and other staff and members of Ifugao Peasant Movement (IPM), and Alma Sinumlag, a woman human rights activist and the Research and Publications Coordinator of Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Center (CWEARC).

Rise for social justice and peace

But just like the Mirabal sisters, they were not cowed by the harassment and intimidation they met. Brenda, Beatrice, Claudine, Connie, Alma and more women are speaking out and daring to challenge inequality and repression and are struggling for the promotion and protection of women and people’s rights towards building peace based on justice.

Like them, We Rise To Break The Culture Of Silence as we want to end the culture of impunity and attain social justice. Thus we demand the President to truly uphold his pronouncements that change is coming. To address violence against women and children is to address poverty that corners women and children into this dilemma. As always, employment, just and living wage, national industrialization are some of the solutions to poverty.

Thus, we urge the President to exert more effort to fast track the peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines especially that the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) which encompasses the concerns of women and the change that women need is already on the table.

Moreover, let us educate all people about the rights of women and children to remove the presumption that women and children are lesser people. We all have the right to create a decent living and a safe world for women and children.

Let us draw inspiration from the Unforgettable Butterflies and all toiling Filipino women and persist in the struggle for social justice and peace. Let them be our hope that a society free from all forms of injustice is possible. # nordis.net


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