Tag Archives: Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC)

The Philippines Should Stop Being US’s Pawn and Warfront

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Statement on International Women’s Day:

Today, over five hundred (500) women gathered early in front of the University of Sto. Tomas to mark the International Women’s Day. This was the starting point of their march towards Mendiola where women affiliated with the World March of Women (WMW)-Pilipinas demanded accountability of the highest in command of the recent tragedy in Mamasapano.

The women’s march was joined by human rights groups Amnesty International, the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), labor groups such as SENTRO and Partido ng Manggagawa, all calling for peace and self-determination in Mindanao and an end to the intervention in national affairs by the United States.

“The death of transwoman Jennifer Laude in the hands of a US soldier and the death of the child Sarah Panangulon in Mamasapano, are in the same context of US wars,” stated Jean Enriquez, Philippine Coordinator of the WMW. “Olongapo murder suspect Joseph Scott Pemberton’s ship USS Peleliu ensures amphibious US presence in the Western Pacific, while the PNP SAF operation responsible for Sarah’s murder was clearly sponsored by the US war on terror,” she added.

The group underscored the economic interest of the US in Mindanao in particular, the Philippines and the region in general, as the US “pivot to Asia” strategy started in 2011, or the transfer of military resources to the region, coinciding with a Trans-Pacific Partnership Economic agreement. As a result, “women, children, the environment are considered collateral damages,” according to the WMW statement.

“Jennifer’s murder is a hate crime committed by a US soldier who enjoys the protection of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA),” declared the group. “Even in court, the unequal relations manifest in allowing the attendance of several US military personnel while limiting Jennifer’s side to only her immediate family and her lawyers,” said their statement.

Carrying roses to symbolize their call for peace, the women also wore pink shirts with the slogan “Pagkain, hindi Bala.” They were demanding that President Benigno Aquino III be also held accountable for his role in the tragedy, as reports clearly pointed to his direct knowledge of the operation, beginning with the appointment of suspended PNP Chief Alan Purisima and strengthened by their correspondence. “Evidently, the only consideration of this operation was the US’s desire to get Marwan and show a positive development in its war on terror, without regard for the Muslim communities that would suffer as well as the peace process that would be compromised,” stated Virgie Suarez, Chairperson, of KAISA KA.

The WMW and supporting organizations lamented that the ongoing military offensive already displaced 8,130 families, with women bearing the most of the hardships and dangers that go with the need to evacuate. Young women and children become more prone to trafficking and prostitution.

They called for a political and economic solution, not war, to resolve the problems in the area. WMW also called for an end to the VFA and all agreements that “tie the country to an unequal defense relation with the US and make the government an accomplice to the US war crimes in its unending quest for world dominance.”

The program in Mendiola ended with the women’s movement’s emblematic song “Bread and Roses” as the women leaders demanded justice for all victims of US militarism. Similar marches were conducted by WMW members in Cavite, Cebu, Davao, and Gen. Santos City.

Participating organizations included Focus on the Global South, Freedom from Debt Coalition, Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM), LBT groups, anti-trafficking groups Action against Violence and Exploitation, Inc. (ACTVE) and CATW-AP, prostitution survivor groups Bagong Kamalayan and Buklod, migrant groups such as Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA).

Women’s organizations present were Kababaihan-Pilipinas, KAISA-KA, KAMP, the indigenous women’s group LILAK, Piglas Kababaihan, Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK),SARILAYA, Transform Asia, WomanHealth Phils., Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau (WLB), Welga ng Kababaihan, Women’s Crisis Center, Youth and Students Advancing Gender Equality (YSAGE), and World March of Women – Pilipinas.

Women and Labor call for “Justice for ALL Fallen in Mamasapano”

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#TruthandJusticefortheFallen64+ #MoroLivesMatter

Noting the invisibility of fallen Muslims in the President’s speech last Friday, labor and women’s groups, progressive parties, other anti-war advocates, and ordinary Filipinos held a candle-lighting action at 6 this evening, at the Boy Scout Circle, Timog cor. Tomas Morato. They demanded for truth and justice for all. “This also means accountability of those in command,” according to Jean Enriquez, Philippine Coordinator of the World March of Women.

Enriquez added that “It is critical that investigations of integrity (especially by the International Monitoring Team) are made public, because whoever were at the helm of this reckless operation should account for the lost lives, not only of the elite police force but for the Moro people, including a 5-year-old child.” She added that to date, media reports of more than 500 who evacuated for fear, with the female and the young among them rendered vulnerable to trafficking.

Labor groups were at the forefront also of the call for peace in Mindanao, as politicians fan the flamesMuslim hatred and wholesale MILF condemnation. “With the President focusing on the 44 PNP-SAF as victims, the Moros are immediately relegated to perpetrators, preemptive of an independent investigation,” according to Josua Mata, Secretary-General of SENTRO.“In the same manner, politicians such as former Pres. Joseph Estrada, former Interior Sec. Rafael Alunan, Sen. Alan Cayetano, Sen. Bongbong Marcos, former Cong. Teddy Locsin, are fanning the flames of Muslim-hatred, wholesale anti-MILF sentiment, driving netizens to call for all-out war. It is critical to turn the country’s rage and grieving to greater understanding, and not back down in the peace process.”

Herbert Docena, one of the organizers and member of the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) reminded the public of the context of this fragile peace,carelessly broken by the operation: “It was the Philippine state that immorally, if not illegally, effectively annexed Morolandia without the Moros’ consent in the early 20th century, backed foreign and local corporations in taking over thousands of hectares of Mindanao lands for their plantations or mining projects, drove hundreds of thousands of landless families from Luzon and the Visayan to settle in the ‘uninhabited’ lands of Mindanao to quell agrarian unrest in the North, and unleashed terror when the displaced people began fighting back.”

The group reminded the public that the ruling oligarchs who dominate the Philippine state – “they who have benefited the most from plundering Mindanao’s resources and subjugating both Moros and Christian landless peoples” – have succeeded in depicting the history of Mindanao as anything else but a history of settler-colonialism, in portraying themselves as other than colonizers, and in casting the Moros and other indigenous peoples as other than anti-colonial movements fighting for self-determination.

Holding a tarpaulin of 69+ faces, with names of the slain Moros after the faces of the 44 PNP-SAF members, the group demanded that the long road to peace be continued.

Organizers: Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO), Bukluran Ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), World March of Women (WMW) – Pilipinas, Stop the War Coalition, PLM – PartidoLakasngMasa, Friends of the Bangsamoro, Freedom from Debt Coalition, Focus on the Global South, Philwomen on the ASEAN, and other orgs and individuals

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)

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