Twenty-two years ago today, thousands of women in the Philippines took to the streets to protest against the dictator Marcos, his anti-people policies and record of human rights violations. This year, women in the Philippines will once again take to the streets to protest against another anti-women, anti-people dictator—de facto president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. And for the 17th year, GABRIELA Network USA (GABNet USA) join hands with the women of the Philippines. We do so with the knowledge that much of Philippine women’s dire conditions are rooted in the ruthless meddling of the United States.
The US introduced large scale systematic prostitution to the archipelago, creating red light districts in and around its military bases that entertained 10,000 soldiers daily during the height of the Vietnam War. With the arrival of close to 12,000 US troops in early 2002, when the Philippines was declared the Second Front in the US-led “war on terror,” sex trafficking of Filipino women and children increased to 600%. The US remains the largest importer of mail-order brides from the Philippines. The US is the biggest supporter of Macapagal Arroyo, giving her administration the fourth largest US foreign military aid package in the world, at over US0 million. Around 5,500 US troops are in the islands.
This state of militarization has had detrimental effects especially on the women. Almost a year ago, 22-year old “Nicole” was allegedly raped and tossed aside by six US Marines outside of a club in Subic Bay, Olongapo City (former US naval base site). The verdict of the case, which will be decided next month, looks grim. According to Nicole’s defense team, the best they can hope for is one conviction and, at worst, all marines will be freed. Nicole’s case is further example of the way women in the Philippines have been and are being treated by US-backed Macapagal Arroyo: easily disposable cheap commodities. Last year alone, over 700,000 women were exported to other countries to work as overseas contract and migrant workers. Everyday, an average of 10 body bags arrive in the Philippines carrying the remains of Filipinas.
With such cheapening of human lives, it is not surprising that Macapagal Arroyo’s record of human rights violations matches, or even surpasses, that of former dictator Marcos. Since she came to power in 2001 there have been 4,300 cases of human rights violations, affecting 235,000 individuals. Over 100,000 of those affected were children under the age of 16; 761 activists have been assassinated, 80 of whom were women, most were members or affiliates of GABRIELA national women’s alliance and Gabriela Women’s Party; 46 journalists have been killed.
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who cheated to get her presidency, is now looking to change the Philippine constitution. If this “charter change” passes it will not only give way for Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to maintain her seat of power until 2010, it will do away with the existence of Partylists. These Partylists are mostly affiliated with popular people’s organizations, representing marginalized sectors of Philippine society. Their removal from the political process will eradicate the only semblance of democracy in the Philippine government. Macapagal Arroyo’s arrogance in attempting these political machinations is indeed shored up by the support of the US, much in the same way that Marcos’ regime was supported.
On this year’s commemoration of the Philippine Women’s National Day of Protest, we in GABRIELA Network call on the people of the US to acknowledge our collective historical connection with the women in the Philippines, to demand accountability from our elected officials who claim to serve our interest, to stand in solidarity with those who have been wronged by our own government. This is not a call for charity. It is a call to action with the recognition that true democracy, our individual freedoms and rights, can only exist when all are equal, with no single nation bullying others into submission. ###
What you can do: 1) join and volunteer for GABRIELA Network; 2) find out more about GABNet and our campaigns. Visit www.gabnet.org or call 1.212.592.3507; 3) help us spread the word. Distribute this statement to your contacts. Bring it to the attention of both mainstream and alternative media; 4) Join Philippine Women’s National Day of Protest. In major US cities, GABNet will present visual protests: 60 foot long banners over the freeways of San Francisco; marches of women in black in Chicago; a women’s political puppet theater in New York; and 20 foot projections of human rights violations on the buildings of Hollywood. For more details or to volunteer: www.gabnet.org, email@example.com, 1.212.592.3507.