When President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office, women’s hopes for change was high. However, he immediately showed his misogynist face when he cat called a media professional. We criticized him but our hope remains when he bravely challenged the imperialist United States (US), which was never done by any president before. But as he unfolded, his assiduous tongue against the US seemed forgotten while more and more atrocities are now faced by Cordillera women.
While he is talking peace, his soldiers under the 50th IBPA, 503rd Infantry Brigade, 24th IBPA, 54th IBPA, and the 77th IBPA are attacking our communities adding to the burden of our already impoverished and neglected people. In 2016, the 50th IBPA encamped in civilian homes in Western Uma and Lower Uma, Lubuagan, Kalinga. In the course of their encampment, women were harassed emotionally, psychologically, and sexually. Testimonies revealed how the soldiers disrespected the culture of a community that has a high regard for women. There are reported cases of soldiers wooing even married women. There was also one soldier who shamelessly offered an indecent proposal to a married woman. In addition, they also bribed children who are unknowingly becoming their intelligence assets.
In Barangay Tanglag of the same municipality, soldiers were relentless in persecuting community leaders including women. They tagged them as members and supporters of the New Peoples Army (NPA). They acted as if they are entitled to harass and intimidate them because of what they call the “red mark.” But the unity and perseverance of the community pulled the soldiers out of their village.
In Ifugao, the 84th IBPA are relentless in attacking remote communities in Asipulo and Tinoc towns. In Asipulo, their combat operations caused a community to evacuate. They encamped in an elementary school halting classes and sowing fear among the women and children. An elderly woman reported that her home was ransacked because she was suspected by the soldiers of feeding the NPA. Another elderly woman during a solidarity mission said that she still feels light-headed even after the soldiers left. Some school children were still in the state of shock. In fact, one of the children cannot set her feet on the school grounds because of trauma. Despite the persuasion of her mother and the community that there are no more soldiers in their school, she still cries hard when they are in the vicinity of the school.
In March this year, the 24th IBPA lead by Lt. Col. Dominic Baluga bombed the forest of Malibcong, Abra in the course of their combat operations against the NPA causing fear and rage among the Gubang, Banao and Mabaka tribes. Soldiers curtailed peoples’ mobility. They prohibited the community from attending to their farms. This will definitely result to prolonged hunger causing malnutrition and illness especially among women and children. Four villagers were also arbitrarily arrested including two women and one minor.
It can also be recalled that Sarah Abellon-Alikes, a Kankana-ey woman human rights defender was illegally arrested and filed with trumped-up charges on February this year. Harassment continues as she and her family face the cases filed against her which are imbued with the state’s objective to silence her and other dissenting masses.
Recently, Rina Libongen, a cultural activist who hails from Ucab, Itogon, Benguet and presently a youth organizer, was tailed by state security agents. State security agents continue to threaten and harass her through phone calls and text messages.
Throughout Duterte’s administration, he had been spitting anti-women jokes including rape jokes. We condemn these irresponsible and disrespectful statements from the most powerful person in the country. These statements undermine the desolate state of women all over the country when it comes to violence against women and children. In the Cordillera alone, the documented cases of rape since January to May this year reached 114. Most of the cases are incestuous. In one of the incest cases, the two perpetrators are members of the Civilian Auxiliary Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) under the 77th IBPA. Duterte’s rape jokes will only nurture the prevalent culture that looks at women and girls as sex objects.
These atrocities against our women are unacceptable. We have already called endless times for the government to scrap the National Internal Security Plan (NISP) that targets not only the CPP-NPA-NDF but also the dissenting masses and treats women as objects for warfare. Oplan Kapayapaan under the Duterte administration is no way different from, and is a continuation of the past administration’s Oplan Bayanihan.
The government’s militarist way of quelling armed and unarmed resistance will only escalate human rights violations and state atrocities against women and children. The hope for addressing the roots of armed resistance was crushed when recently, Duterte announced the termination of the peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). Instead of seriously uprooting the roots of armed resistance by forging an economic system that favors the interest of the masses, Duterte belittled the peace negotiators and even extended Marial Law in Mindanao.
We call on the Duterte administration to stop the militarization of our communities; drop the charges against Sarah Abellon-Alikes; hands off Rina Libongen and other women human rights defenders; end Martial Law and scrap Oplan Kapayapaan.
We also urge peace loving citizens to join us in calling for the government and the NDFP to go back to the negotiating table and give peace a chance. # nordis.net