Women’s Coalitions Launch 18 Days of Activism against Violence, Declares: WE ARE ALL JENNIFER!

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On the eve of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (VAW), which marks the start of the 18 Days of Activism Against VAW, women’s groups held a press conference and rally in front of the US Embassy. The coalitions announced today that they unite in focusing on the call for justice for Jennifer Laude during this 18-day campaign period which starts on November 25, and will sustain the campaign until justice is served.

“We are all Jennifer!,” declared Jean Enriquez of the World March of Women, in behalf of the other women’s groups and supporting social movements who also participated in a rally in front of the US Embassy. “The commodification, the objectification, the hate crime, the murder of Laude are illustrative of the continuum of violence against women suffered by many women, including trans women,” added Enriquez. She explained how various forms of violence against women, including sexual harassment, physical and economic abuse, rape and others, share the same roots – that of gender inequality, that of keeping women in a subordinated status in society, and are interrelated, sometimes recurring in a woman’s life.

“Jennifer Laude was killed because of her sexual orientation and gender identity – because she is a trans woman,” said Jelen Paclarin, a leader of the Philwomen on ASEAN. Paclarin added that the groups demand the Philippine government, particularly the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), to exhaust all legal measures to ensure that Jennifer’s perpetrator will be punished under Philippine law.

Groups of transgender women highlighted the continuing spate of hate crimes against transwomen, such as the killing of two others in Quezon province, weeks after Laude was killed on October 11, 2014. Naomi Fontanos, Executive Director of GANDA Filipinas, stated that “as long as patriarchal beliefs and attitudes, sexism and machismo exist, there will be more Jennifer Laudes.” She stressed the need to expand anti-violence interventions to address those directed towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Filipinos.

Among the coalitions present is the Scrap VFA Coalition, represented by Proleta Nunez. They underscored that the Visiting Forces Agreement has to go, along with the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the US. “The EDCA, like the military bases agreement, will likely be committing violence against women once it becomes operational,” said Nunez.

The women leaders vowed to be vigilant, especially during the Christmas season, as they remembered how US soldier Daniel Smith, then convicted with rape of a Filipina by a lower court, was transferred to US custody a few days before New Year. In the next 16 days, activities to increase awareness on the Jennifer Laude case, on sexual violence, hate crimes and US militarism, will be held. Among these are:

December 5 – Conversations with LGBT groups
December 8 – Scrap VFA Forum, UP Institute of Human Rights
December 9 – Premiere of Pink Documentary, Trinoma
December 10 – Human Rights Day Rally
December 12 – Trans Film Showing as part of Pink Fest, Trinoma
December 13 – QC LGBT Pride March.

After the press conference, the women leaders, all wearing purple, proceeded to join the 150-strong mobilization that marched along Kalaw St., from Plaza Salamanca in Taft Avenue to the US Embassy. Upon meeting the mobilization, they took off their purple shirts to reveal their red shirts, “symbols of resistance,” with the slogan “We are all Jennifer!,” similar to those worn by the marchers.

Underscoring that US military presence worsens violence against women, the marchers raised crossed arms as act of protest against militarism and gender-based violence. November 24 was also the day that the last soldiers left Subic Naval Base by plane 22 years ago after extension of the bases lease was rejected by the Philippine Senate. However, VFA and EDCA were signed afterwards, which saw the rise in prostitution, rape and other forms of violence in areas opened to US military.

Upon reaching Plaza Ferguson, the women formed a huge human cross to signify that violence against women, hate crimes, and US military presence have no place in their lives as women, in society. “We seek to eliminate hate crimes, we seek to cross out gender-based violence, and we seek to end militarism.”

PARTICIPATING GROUPS:

Association of Transgender People in the Philippines (ATP) • Bagong Kamalayan • Buklod •
Buklod ng Nagkakaisang Kababaihan • CATW-AP • Center for Migrant Advocacy •
Development Action for Women Network • Focus on the Global South • Freedom from Debt Coalition • GANDA Filipinas • KAISA-KA • Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya •
LILAK (Purple Action for Women’s Rights) • Partido ng Manggagawa • Piglas Kababaihan •
Philwomen on ASEAN • PKKK • RENEW • SARILAYA • SCRAP VFA • SENTRO •
Women’s Education, Development, Productivity and Research Organization (WEDPRO) •
WomanHealth Phils. • Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau (WLB) • Women’s Crisis Center • World March of Women – Pilipinas • Youth and Students Advancing Gender Equality (YSAGE)

PH fast food workers form alliance; US counterparts attend launching

WORKERS from the country’s leading fast food chains linked up with trade union, youth and community organizations in an initial step to establishing an alliance that would push for the rights and welfare of fast food workers, which are rampantly violated and neglected.

About 50 mostly young people employed in various branches in Metro Manila of top fast food establishments along with trade union and youth activists participated in their inaugural whole-day meeting in Quezon City yesterday dubbed “Happy Camp” – a pun on McDonald’s Happy Meal.

Provisionally called Respect Fast Food Workers Alliance, the group plans to expand its membership to as many fast food joints as possible and to eventually extend its reach to other key areas in Luzon as well as in the Visayas and Mindanao.

The assembly delegates came from homegrown sister companies Jollibee – the Philippines’ No. 1 fast food restaurant – Chowking, Mang Inasal and Greenwich Pizza; along with local franchises of US-based global firms McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and Shakey’s Pizza.

Two McDonald’s workers from the US representing the Fight for $15 movement’s chapter in Los Angeles, California attended the launching to express their solidarity to their Filipino colleagues while sharing their experiences in working in America’s similarly exploitative fast food industry and their efforts to organize themselves to effectively address their plight.

The Fight for $15 started in New York last year when employees from different McDonald’s branches held successive strikes against low salaries, but which later spread to other US cities and evolved into a national movement of fast food and retail workers who are campaigning for $15 an hour living wage and the right to form a union without management retaliation.

McDonald’s, the world’s largest fast food chain, pioneered the widespread use and abuse of contractual labor in the multibillion-dollar fast food industry – setting off today’s familiar hiring of mostly youthful workers with low wages, scarce benefits and no security of tenure, or derisively called “McJobs” – and also became infamous for its almost fanatical resistance to trade unions.

Boosting the demands and lawsuits filed by the Fight for $15, the US National Labor Relations Board ruled last July 29 that McDonald’s could be named as a “joint employer” in several complaints of labor rights’ violations even at restaurants owned and operated by its franchisees, which account for the vast majority of McDonald’s over 14,000 joints in the US.

It signifies that McDonald’s – and other unscrupulous fast food companies for that matter – could no longer “hide behind its franchisees” and to feign innocence for the long list of abusive acts against McDonald’s workers, including those not directly employed by the corporation but by its numerous franchisees or affiliate firms.

McDonald’s notorious anti-worker and anti-union practices are widely imitated in the rapidly growing global fast food industry – this year’s sales alone are projected to reach $239.7 billion – especially by other fast food transnational corporations like Burger King, Pizza Hut, Wendy’s, KFC and many others, which all operate also in the Philippines.

The said practices are likewise followed by the local fast food firms, including the industry leader Jollibee, which is infamous too for its low pays and routine use of “endo” or “end-of-contract” workers with short-term and precarious work arrangements and also called “5-5-5” scheme where workers are endlessly hired and fired every five months to prevent them from becoming permanent or regular workers.

The fledgling local alliance of fast food workers is being assisted by the national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) and the global union IUF (International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations).

The IUF is also providing some help to the Fight for $15 movement – described as “an ever-expanding coalition of community, labor and faith-based groups” – that includes the ongoing campaign and solidarity tour of US-based McDonald’s workers in eight countries (including the Philippines) in three continents.

SENTRO fully supports Walden Bello’s ‘good governance crusade’ despite rebukes from the government and his party’s leadership

Bello

Rep. Walden Bello

The Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) unequivocally supports and salutes Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello’s emphatic and consistent calls for President Aquino not to lose the moral high ground on his administration’s purported anticorruption drive and reform agenda, by firing at least four of his Cabinet members – not only Vice President Jejomar Binay, the government’s housing czar and presidential adviser on OFW concerns; but also Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes, and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala – as well as Philippine National Police Director General Alan Purisima.

SENTRO also upholds Congressman Bello’s suggestion to shake up the executives in the Departments of Transportation and Communications, Energy, and Foreign Affairs, as part of the needed revamp of the bureaucracy. The goal of these calls is good governance, where the government is able to honestly and effectively serve the people – whom Aquino claims to be his “bosses” – and to institute necessary measures to achieve genuine inclusive growth.

The decades-long corruption and meticulously hidden wealth of Binay and his cronies are now being unraveled despite his feigning of innocence, vehement denials, professing his humble origins and “pro-poor” stance, and invoking alleged persecution.

However, it is grossly unfair for Aquino’s political soldiers to condemn Binay, a nominal “oppositionist” and presidential aspirant, for corruption while exonerating or keeping mum about the shenanigans or incompetence of Abad, De los Reyes, Alcala, Purisima, and other top officials not identified with the Binay faction. Indeed, as Bello warns, “double standard has a tremendously corrosive effect on civic morality,” adding that “getting rid of Binay is only half the challenge facing the country. The other half is continuing the reform program.”

Abad is reputedly the brains behind the PDAF and DAP pork barrels that were liberally used for the government’s carrot and stick ploys. These huge funds, of course, spawned the multibillion-peso scam involving politicians (and their cohorts) from all sides of the political spectrum, including Aquino’s allies. He is also accused of political nepotism.

De los Reyes is being blamed by farmers for the sluggish implementation – or non-implementation – of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program extension with reform (Carper) law. After all these years and even with enough budgets, no less than 300,000 hectares of agricultural lands covered by Carper have yet to be distributed to impoverished farmers. This law will expire on June 30, this year.

The agriculture department has actually two de facto chiefs – Alcala and Secretary Francis Pangilinan, presidential adviser on national food security. Hence, Bello observes: The DA “is headed to the doldrums. It will simply bring about a fatal division of responsibility and accountability. It’s the height of indecision. Why not give the fresh face full command?”

On the other hand, Purisima is likewise accused of unexplained wealth – although a pittance compared to Binay’s – and being held responsible for the deteriorating peace and order, but still has the temerity to deny this reality.

No amount of rebuking or disowning Walden Bello for his well-intentioned proposals and constructive criticisms will prevent Sentro from expressing our support to him – as long as what he conveys is for the benefit of the vast majority of the people, and not a few privileged ones. In fact, Bello should have been thanked for his efforts. The question is, why can’t his partymates support the principled position he has taken?

Hotel workers urge SC to review Dusit case en banc

Workers belonging to SENTRO marched to the Supreme Court today to urge Chief Justice Sereno to review the case En Banc and reverse the illogical and unjust labor jurisprudence which was found to be in violation of ILO Core Conventions.

While they laud the recent decisions of the Court, particularly on the PDAF and DAP, the workers also ask that the Chief Justice take a look at patently unjust decisions of the Court.

Dusit Hotel workers were deemed to have gone on strike in 2001 solely because some of them reported for work with shaved heads. The management had prevented from working not only those who shaved their heads, but also women union officers (none of whom shaved their heads) and members who did NOT shave their heads nor cut them short as well as male union officers who had long lost their hair due to the ravages of time.
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Peoples Action against the World Bank – Philippines

Manila –  This WB safeguard review started almost 3 years ago, but communities and organizations in the Philippines barely understand its process and contents. And to our knowledge, this is the first actual official interaction with Philippine organizations.  Yet, there has been too little time and lackluster effort to enable meaningful engagements.  Meanwhile, Southern and Northern organizations expressed their struggles and frustrations with the dismal handling of the Bank of the safeguards review over the past 2 years. The WB meetings last Oct. 8-11, 2014 in Washington DC was a clear reflection of peoples’ deep resentment over the poor consultation and bad safeguards draft. And here is the Bank doing a repeat of the same failures in running effective consultations: you give us too short notice to prepare and incomplete documents to consult. No draft business procedures, no implementation plan, no translations.

The affected communities and their support groups demand that the WB safeguard policies must be strengthened to ensure real protections for people and the planet. The draft does not promise to deliver that.

We are concerned that right now, Filipinos are not overcoming poverty, inequality and hunger are increasing, our natural resources are threatened by industrialization and extractive industries while labor rights are diluted or informalized. Contrary to the Bank’s rosy narratives of Philippine growth linked with its financing, this growth is widening inequality. Bank financing has not helped in preventing the intensified privatization of commons and has contributed to the systematic dismantling of essential public services. It has been muted in dealing with the discrimination against marginalized groups such as PWDs, IPs, children, and sexual minorities who are the most vulnerable sectors. They have been threatened by projects that were partly-funded by the World Bank Group. Remember the Manila Sewerage Project? Remember Chico dam in Cordillera? Remember IFC’s support to a mining project in the ancestral domain of the Mamanwas in CARAGA? In many instances, safeguards were useful in ensuring some basic minimum levels of protection were available.  But the Bank is moving to moving to eviscerate these basic human rights protections. You’re dumping people with more debts but you’re removing your environmental and human rights accountability.

We have watched with rising concern that your new “safeguard” proposals betray these expectations and represent the opposite.  In this process, we believe that the World Bank is stepping back on its promise to reduce poverty.

Instead of ensuring protection of vulnerable communities and the project affected people, your draft proposes dismantling of even existing protections that have been built over decades of hard work, hard won protections that people have fought and died for here in the Philippines, including social justice laws for indigenous peoples, environment, land reform and people’s participation in governance.

We cannot remain mute spectators of this regressive journey and must convey to you the rising frustration and anger amongst the many communities that are facing these impacts from Bank-supported projects, and also within many people’s movements and supporting civil society groups, networks and alliances from all over the Philippines.

Our colleagues have watched with growing dismay – the increasingly insensitive responses to the passionate appeals by cornered and distressed communities affected by bank supported projects.  I personally appealed that this consultation be re-scheduled to give time for communities and organizations to understand better the process and substance of the safeguards, but my appeal was rejected.

We are also alarmed by the rising talk of the Bank venturing into riskier investments, coming from as high positions as the WB President! Hundreds of indigenous peoples and forest dwellers organizations are terribly concerned with the proposed ‘opt out’ clause, and the dilution of protection hitherto given to biodiversity rich and protected areas.  You also propose to venture into uncharted territory of biodiversity offsets!  These are gambles more suited to a venture capital fund, not fit for a “Development Bank”, and the Filipinos cannot allow this to happen.

We, the dozens of people’s movements and organizations present here from all over the Philippines, and the many thousands we represent back from our communities, are rejecting this current draft of safeguards.  The protections you now seek to dismantle, the safeguards that we fought for over decades – do not belong to you, they are not yours to throw away, they belong to the world and its vulnerable people.

We are also aware of a handful of saner voices from within the bank, and urge them to fight inside the system, for protecting the very rights they themselves enjoy – also for the people and communities around the world facing potential threats from this proposed dilution of protections.  We strongly believe this protest action that we are compelled to take, will strengthen those voices and create a better environment for creating a really progressive safeguards policy.  This will be in the interest of the bank itself, as well as for the entire Philippines, and the rest of the world.

That is why we are forced to take this action now and join our partners in the protest outside.  Today we are going out of this consultation, to defend the safeguards and to stand with the World and against the Bank that is trying to destroy it!  We sincerely hope that this will help a better tomorrow, within & outside.

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Signatories:

AKBAYAN

Aniban ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (AMA)

Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL)

Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM)

Bank Information Center (BIC)

DANGAL

Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC)

NAGKAISA

NGO Forum on the ADB

Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ)

SANLAKAS