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. http://www.sentro.org/
PLM statement on International Women's Day
Party of the Laboring Masses (PLM)
Increased US militarization of the Philippines through the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the Asian Pivot and the soon-to-be-operational Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) makes living dangerous and doubly difficult for women and children. This has been made clear by the country’s experience with US’s Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines. Again, this is the lesson we can glean from the recent events: the murder of trans-woman Jennifer Laude on October 11, 2014, as well as the killing and displacement of Muslim civilians during and after the Mamasapano tragedy on January 25 this year.
The Partido Lakas ng Masa bemoans the Philippine government’s acquiescence to all US military trainings, exercises, troop deployment, prepositioning of war materiel, patrolling Philippine waters and docking in Philippine ports of US warships and maintaining military advisers. These are all for US wars.
Jennifer’s murder is not an ordinary crime as the President pictured it to be. It is clearly a hate crime committed by a US soldier who enjoys the protection of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), hence the difficulty for Philippine police authorities to serve him an arrest warrant and present him in court for preliminary investigation. While custody comes with criminal jurisdiction over the crime, US authorities have custody of the accused Joseph Scott Pemberton. 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.
The urgency and secrecy of the special operation to get Marwan, carried-out for the US by the PNP Special Action Force (SAF), particularly the 84th Special Action Company skipped the PNP chain of command and supposedly defied the order by the President Aquino to coordinate with the AFP. 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 as the ISIS continues to advance in several fronts in the Middle East and even in Europe. Hence the result: a tragedy that befell 44 members of the PNP-SAF, 18 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), at least five Muslim civilians killed, including a girl named “Sarah”, more than a thousand displaced, and a compromised peace process for the Mindanao-Sulu area.
We also call on the President to own up to his responsibility in this tragedy and not allow himself to be used as a stooge of the US.
The AFP is now into an offensive against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a splinter group of the MIFF. Already, this has displaced 8,130 families or 30,130 individuals. Women, the elderly and children bear most of the hardships and dangers that go with need to evacuate. Young women and children become more prone to trafficking and prostitution. We demand an immediate end to the military offensive against the BIFF.
The military offensive in Mindanao, could increase the possibility of more terrorism, as extremist groups prey on the economic and social desperation of the communities in the area. We call for a negotiated political solution, including with the BIFF, not a military offensive, to resolve the problems in the region. The first step is the passage of the Bangsa Moro Basic Law, without watering down the provisions that enable self-determination for Mindanao.
PLM opposes the US-led “War on Terror” that terrorizes civilians, causes massive destruction and carnage world-wide and is responsible for spawning more terrorist groups. We call on the Aquino government to end 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 Partido Lakas ng Masa joins the World March of Women — Pilipinas and other women’s groups mobilising on March 8 demanding justice for all victims of US militarism and for peace and self-determination for Mindanao.
All Out Peace, Not War, in Mindanao!
Justice for Jennifer Laude! Justice for All!
Pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law! No to Watering it Down!
No to US Intervention! http://www.masa.ph/