As we commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (IDEVAW), Innabuyog rages against the intensifying attacks on women human rights defenders in the Cordillera region.
The observance of IDEVAW every November 25th has started after the brutal assassinations of the Mirabal sisters, activists in the Dominican Republic known as “The Butterflies”, by state forces in 1960. Their courage and defiance against tyranny has inspired women around the world to resist all forms of violence against women. Later, in 1999, the United Nations General Assembly designated November 25 as IDEVAW. November 25 to December 10 was then declared as the 16-day activism to eliminate violence against women to raise awareness on all forms of VAW.
Like the Mirabal sisters, women human rights defenders and development activists in the Cordillera are constantly subjected to threats, intimidation, and political persecution by state security forces.
In July, the 7th ID of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) filed trumped-up charges against Sarah Abellon-Alikes, Sherry Mae Soledad, Rachel Mariano, Joanne Villanueva, and Asia Isabella Gepte. Months later, the same unit filed similar cases against them in two other separate incidents.
These 5 women are being implicated in alleged gun-firing incidents involving the New People’s Army (NPA) that transpired in Ilocos Sur which they had absolutely nothing to do with. In fact, one of them was 6 months pregnant during the alleged incidents. They are staff of legitimate NGOs and members of peoples organizations working for genuine development of marginalized communities. Sarah and Sherry Mae are both with the Katinnulong dagiti Umili ti Amianan-Regional Development Center. Sarah is a pioneer of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA). Rachel is with the Cordillera Health, Education, Services and Training in the Cordillera (CHESTCORE). Joanne works with the Cordillera Women’s Education, Action, Research Center (CWEARC) and is a member of Innabuyog, and Asia is a convenor of Binnadang, a network of advocates supporting Cordillera indigenous peoples’ issues and campaigns.
In yet another case, the 24th IBPA has been relentlessly persecuting Shirley Ann Angiwot in social media as “terrorist” since August. In addition, the same unit tagged her as a member and recruiter of NPA during a public forum on September 21 in Bangued, Abra. Moreover, in the local news broadcasted on October 31, 24th IB commander Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Dominic Baluga accused Shirley Ann and Theresa Forag of “kidnapping” three minors in Dolores, Abra. Shirley Ann and Theresa are both members of Innabuyog.
Further, since May state security agents has been surveilling, harassing and threatening Rina Libongen, a cultural activist and presently an organizer of women in Benguet.
We then fear that if these evil deeds by the AFP remains unchecked and will just be allowed to continue, human rights violations will escalate that may even lead to extra judicial killings like that of the fate of “the Butterflies”.
On this IDEVAW commemoration, we demand the Duterte regime through its state machineries to drop all trumped-up charges against women human rights defenders. We call for a stop to the persecution of women activists by the Philippine state and its security forces.
Further, we rage against the anti-insurgency policy of the Duterte regime that converts government agencies into anti-insurgency instruments through the Inter-agency Committee on Legal Action (IACLA) rather than responding to the plights and concerns of marginalized communities.
Meanwhile, we urge our fellow women to overcome fear, and resist state fascism and tyranny. Let us draw strength from the Mirabal sisters to stay vigilant and remain steadfast in safeguarding our rights and dignity. # nordis.net