Tag Archives: Youth and Students Advancing Gender Equality (YSAGE)

Forward, not Backward: The Youth’s Statement on Human Rights Day

APL Youth

Today, as we celebrate the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we, young Filipinos stand united in recognizing as regressive, anti-people, and anti-poor the Duterte administration’s policy of restoring the death penalty, lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR), and the vigilante-style “war on drugs.” This government’s policy runs contrary to President Duterte’s claim to genuine, forward, and transformative change that we demand.

On the Restoration of the Death Penalty

We vehemently condemn the move to restore capital punishment in the country through House Bill no. 1 for we believe that the purpose of criminal justice is to rehabilitate convicted criminals, that is to bring them closer to humanity even after having erred. We believe in a view of Justice that allows the person to reform and reintegrate as a changed person into society, one that affirms human dignity and the right to life.

We reject this policy for even if we consider the end goal of the measure of restoring capital punishment, that is to deter crime, the claim holds no scientific evidence. As research shows, the death penalty will not deter crime. On the contrary, in 1999, the bumper year for executions, the national crime volume, instead of abating, ironically increased by 15.3 percent or a total of 82,538 (from 71,527 crimes in the previous year). In addition, the Supreme Court released that 71.77 percent judicial error rate in capital cases in the period from 1993 to 2004, years when we still implemented the death penalty.

In addition, restoring the death penalty is a direct violation of international agreements ratified by the government. Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” We believe that the act of murder, especially as it is rendered by State instruments must be condemned.

Further, women’s groups have been expressing that the death penalty deters victims-survivors, especially among children from reporting rape. Women fought for the abolition of death penalty, alongside human rights advocates for 20 years, only to be restored by this administration in a matter of months.

We believe that in the end, this policy only puts already oppressed Filipinos in a more vulnerable position. When the poor are unable to afford effective attorneys during trial, they may not be able to make the most effective case for themselves. The majority remain at the losing end at the cost of a false promise of a lower crime rate.

Back in 2006, the government already repealed the death penalty (RA 9346). Let us not regress as a society by reinstating the death penalty, and inhumane retributive form of punishment.

On Lowering The Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility (MACR)

We strongly denounce the lowering of MACR which seeks to revert the MACR from 15 years old to 9 years old. The motion to criminalize children who are but victims of violence and exploitation neglects their dignity as persons. This undermines their human right to security — a right that is most essential especially with regard to their status as one of the most vulnerable sector in any society.

When the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act or JJWA (RA 9344) was enacted in 2006, the MACR was raised from 9 years old to 15 for the purposes of complying to the international standard that 9 years is an unacceptable age of criminal responsibility.

Children are dependent on adults for survival; their everyday activities are influenced by those who nurture and provide for their needs. The government recognizes this through RA 9344 as amended by RA 10630 that seeks to strengthen the juvenile justice welfare system in its commitment to always deliberate and enact motions that serve the best interests of Children in Conflict with the Law (CICL) throughout the justice process. However, the implementation of JJWA which House BIll No. 2 seeks to amend has been very weak: programs enacted in pursuant of the law are underfunded, government facilities for rehabilitation operate like jails, and incarcerated children are being subjected to inhumane conditions.

The prevalence of CICLs in the country is a manifestation of the incompetency of both the local and national government as well as of child custodians to provide a safe space for children. The move to lower MACR rejects the underlying issues why children are involved in criminal activity to begin with. House Bill No. 2, in seeking to divert the blame from the real problem seeks to make use of children as a scapegoat for the persisting socio-economic problems that only capitalize on their vulnerability. JJWA was crafted precisely to protect children from harmful elements and we owe its full implementation to them.

Ten years ago, RA 9344 was enacted partly to raise the MACR in order to reinforce the protection of children and now, there is an attempt to nullify that change. To scrap efforts to improve the country’s conditions will not pave way for progress. To return to the Philippines that was a decade ago is a backward notion of development; to revert the MACR from 15 years old to 9 is definitely not the way forward.

On the President’s “War on Drugs”

While drug traffickers deserve to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, we condemn the fact that the current campaign has taken on an arbitrary, discriminatory and anti-poor tone that has led to the deaths of thousands of poor Filipinos.

The President’s careless pronouncements calling for the indiscriminate killing of even suspected drug dependents all connected to drugs, emboldened the police to shoot and kill those who are suspected of using or selling drugs. Worse still, the President has also encouraged citizens to take matters into their own hands, which has heartened vigilantes to protect the streets, killing their fellow citizens. This has fortified a culture of violence of an unprecedented magnitude. Since the President has taken office, this cruel war on the poor has already taken 5,882 lives from 01 July 2016 to 06 December 2016.

The poor are easy targets in this war. Not only have structures in society forced the poor to resort to or sell drugs to escape the pains of day-to-day life, the poor also live in penetrable communities where armed people can easily enter, and safety is a daily concern. The poor also cannot afford the protection, legal and otherwise, that those of means can afford. To attest to this, Oplan Tokhang has been asymmetrically enforced—homes of the poor are searched through haphazardly, while gated villages are able to protect their residents from being searched or able to dictate the terms of the operation.

Most of all, we condemn in the strongest possible terms the blatant disregard for human rights that the President and his administration has exhibited time and time again. Drug dependency is not merely an issue of security or crime, but one of public health. Drug dependency can be addressed with rehabilitation, which in October 2016, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella has said is actually the new goal of its anti-drugs campaign. Despite this, many continue to be killed on the streets.

The state must not kill Filipinos, but aid them in improving their lives through a rehabilitative approach in order to let them move past their chemical and economic dependency on drug.

The change we demand

We the Filipino youth demand nothing less from the government than for it to recognize the fundamental human right to life– that is for the government to affirm that all have the right to live a life free from fear, to live a life worth living. Such cannot be attained through the Duterte administration’s myopic view of progress that takes the short route which in the end, does nothing but breed a culture of violence.

We demand that the government instead invest in youth development programs that provide opportunities for us young Filipinos to improve our lives and to develop our skills, a government that likewise seeks to increase our participation in institutions that affect our lives and the lives of others. We hope for programs that enable young people like us to dream of better solutions for our country.

We demand that this government stop its sexual attacks on women, especially those who are critical of it. The President and his men, who have been encouraging the rape culture and the treatment of women as objects, should be made accountable.

We demand that the government instead focus on social welfare measures that alleviate poverty which we recognize as the root cause of many of society’s ills, measures that should lead to the transformation of oppressive political, economic, and social structures towards structures that take the primacy of the fundamental human right to life.

With this view, we call on the Filipino youth to stand and fight! Let us demand accountability from President Duterte and reject his administration’s policies that bring us back to the old age of strongman dictatorship and the preponderance of vigilante-style extrajudicial killings. We shall continue to resist forms of change that lead to our regression as a society so as to assure our future and the future of our nation.

Sigaw ng kabataan: Pagbabagong pasulong, hindi paurong!
Itigil ang mga paatras na polisiya ng gobyerno ni Duterte!
Kilalanin ang karapatan sa buhay ng mamamayang Pilipino!

Alliance of Progressive Labor Youth (APL Youth-SENTRO) • Kilos Kabataan ng Ateneo
Union of Students for the Advancement of Democracy (USAD AdMU) • PUP SPEAK
Youth and Students Advancing Gender Equality (YSAGE)
Marikina Polytechnic College Supreme Student Council (TINDIG-MPC) • Akbayan Youth

Women and Workers Outraged by SC Decision on Marcos Burial

Marcos not a hero

Women and worker activists held a noise barrage in Quezon City this evening to express their outrage over the Supreme Court’s decision to bury the deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

The groups World March of Women (WMW), Sentro ng Progresibo at Nagkakaisang Manggagawa (SENTRO) and Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) have been rallying to oppose President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to bury Marcos in the hero’s cemetery.

“We shall never forget this day. The decision of the SC is a grave insult to the memory of those who died under Marcos rule,” according to Jelen Paclarin, Executive Director of the Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau (WLB). “The burial of Marcos in LNB is the death of justice – as the remains of the Dictator shall be laid in the ground, so shall what remained of hope and our faith in the justice system.” The group asserted that Marcos is not a hero, but a dictator who brought upon atrocities and suffering to the country and the Filipino people can never be called a hero.

Josua Mata, Secretary General of SENTRO, expressed that the SC decision tramples on the sacrifices of all trade unionists whose lives were taken in fighting the Marcos dictatorship. “This is another nail on the cross of democracy in the country,” added Mata.

“We fought the Marcos dictatorship fiercely and sacrificed our youth so that our children will live free from fascism,” stated Jean Enriquez, Philippine Coordinator of the WMW. “But President Duterte would rather fulfill his campaign promises to the Marcos family, which left the democratic forces with no recourse but to file petitions at the Supreme Court,” she added. They vowed to continue resisting the grave abuse of discretion by the president in ordering the Marcos burial at the heroes’ cemetery, despite the SC failing them.

“This SC decision does not represent the position of the thousands of Filipino people who have lived, experienced and understood the horrors during the Marcos dictatorship, said Judy Pasimio, Executive Director of Lilak (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights). “Our resistance to the burying of truth and that tragic part of our history will continue,” she added. The group noted that indigenous and Moro people have been severely abused during the Marcos regime.

Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), Focus on the Global South, Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center, Foundation for Media Alternatives, Youth and Students Advancing Gender Equality, iDefend, and the Coalition Against Marcos Burial petitioners were part of the action.

Women Amplify Call to Stop Marcos Burial at Libingan ng mga Bayani and to Stop the Killings


At 6 this evening, women from various groups, many of whom were at the Luneta rally on Aug. 14, gathered at the World Scout Jamboree in Timog, bringing stone markers with names of women victims-survivors during Martial Law. They also lit candles to protest the killings happening in the name of the drug war, now reaching 1,103 as of Aug. 18.

“The killings are reminiscent of the early days of Martial law, which delivered shock and awe with the targeting first of drug offenders,” said Jean Enriquez, Philippine coordinator of the World March of Women. “We do not want our country to fall back to the dark days of the dictatorship that did not recognize the fundamental rights of its citizens,” she added.

The group also opposed the interment of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery). “Such will lay to waste the years of struggle of many women who fought and died during Martial Law,” said Joanne Bernice Coronacion, of SENTRO-Women. “Our fellow worker Lisa Balando was killed by a Metrocom’s bullet in 1971 in front of the old Senate Building, and she is the one who should be recognized as a hero, not Marcos.”

The women brought other women heroes’ names such as those of Liliosa Hilao, the Kalinga women who fought the Chico river dam construction, the survivors of Jolo Burning, Palimbang and Manili massacres in Mindanao.

“We also support the legislative investigation of the extra-judicial killings and are angered by the sexist harassment by the current President of Sen. Leila De Lima, added Enriquez. She lamented that the President consistently harassed women who filed a complaint against the rape joke, to Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno and now, Sen. De Lima. “Such attacks by the patriarch tries to send the message that anyone who stands in the way will be disparaged, but not his co-patriarchs like Marcos,” said Enriquez.

Participating organizations included the World March of Women, Center for Migrant Advocacy, Phils. Inc., Coalition Against Trafficking in Women – Asia Pacific (CATW-AP),

Focus on the Global South, Foundation for Media Alternatives, I Defend Human Rights and Dignity Movement, Ladies Who Launch, Lilak (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights), PILIPINA, Sarilaya, Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa – Women, Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK), WomanHealth Philippines, Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau – WLB, and Youth and Students Advancing Gender Equality (YSAGE).

The Philippines Should Stop Being US’s Pawn and Warfront


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.