As women activists the world over commemorate the International Day for Women Human Rights Defenders today, November 29, women’s rights group Tanggol Bayi today scored the BS Aquino administration as “a threat to the lives and rights of Filipinas, especially on the extent of rights violations against women human rights defenders in the Philippines.”
Kiri Dalena, convenor of Tanggol Bayi, said the “continuing attacks on women human rights defenders in the country are evident in the killing of development worker Engr. Fidela Salvador, frustrated killing of Nermie Lapatis and in the illegal arrest and detention of Andrea Rosal and Maria Miradel Torres who were both pregnant at the time of their arrests.”
Engr. Salvador, 50 years old and a mother of three children, was a consultant of the Cordillera Disaster Response and Development Services Inc. (CorDisRDS) and the Center for Development Programs in the Cordillera (CDPC). She was on a monitoring visit for various socio-economic projects implemented by CorDiSRDS and CDPC in Lacub, Abra when she was killed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines in their operations in September 2014.
On September 6, Engr. Salvador’s body along with the dead body of another civilian, Lacub resident Noel Viste, was airlifted by the AFP from their Bantugo military camp in Lacub to the Barbarit, Lagangilang, military camp. The autopsy report conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation indicated that she suffered from 9 gunshot wounds, multiple contusions and lacerations and a head injury caused by a blunt object.
Andrea Rosal, a peasant organizer and land rights activist, was arrested together with companion Edward Lanzanas on March 27, 2014 by elements of the NBI and the military for trumped up charges of kidnapping with murder. Rosal was seven months pregnant during the arrest. Rosal, daughter of communist spokesperson Ka Roger Rosal, lost her first child two days after giving birth in May this year. The inhumane conditions in jail contributed to the death of her baby. She is still detained for the said trumped up charges.
Torres, a member of Gabriela in Mauban, Quezon, was four-months pregnant when she was illegally arrested on June 20, 2014 in Lucena by joint elements of the AFP and the police based on trumped up charges of murder and frustrated murder. Prior to her arrest, Torres, who was then four-months pregnant, was confined at a hospital in Quezon province from June 11 to 18 due to profuse bleeding. While at the TCJ-FD, Torres was brought to Taguig Hospital due to continuous heavy bleeding. She was hospitalized from July 3 to August 11. She recently gave birth to a baby boy.
Indigenous people’s leader and anti-mining activist Nermie Lapatis of the Kahugpungan sa mga Mag-uuma (Kasama) in Vintar, Valencia, Bukidnon, survived an attempt on her life in February 5, 2014. She was shot in the knee, while her companion and fellow peasant leader, Julieto Lauron, had been killed instantly, after they were shot at by still unidentified assailants. Lapatis had been previously harassed by paramilitary group New Indigenous People’s Army for Reform (NIPAR) and the 8thInfantry Battalion Philippine Army.
Human rights group Karapatan reported 21 women victims of extrajudicial killings under the Aquino administration, and 43 women political prisoners.
Aquino government did not comply with Beijing declaration on women’s rights
Cristina Palabay, co-convenor of Tanggol Bayi, said that the “Philippine government is an absolute failure in implementing international human rights standards on women’s rights, including the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action (BPfA),” which was adopted on September 15, 1995 in Beijing, China. The said declaration contains specific commitments pertaining to the respect, promotion and protection of women’s rights in situations of armed conflict. A review of States’ commitments to the BPfA is slated on March 2015 at the session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York, twenty years after the landmark declaration was signed.
“Since 1995, the continuing and escalating attacks by state security forces against women human rights defenders in the Philippines, especially those who are active in promoting the right of peasants and indigenous peoples, are propped up by the climate of impunity, the non-rendering of justice and accountability, that engenders further violations against Filipino women and the people in general,” Palabay averred.
She also particularly scored the increased military fund appropriations and spending of the Philippine government and the US military aid to the Philippines to fund counter-insurgency programs that result to gross violations of women’s rights.
Despite the enactment of domestic laws criminalizing violence against women and children, trafficking, rape and the Magna Carta of Women, Palabay said “the situation of increased poverty, landlessness, joblessness, gender-based violence, and suppression of rights by state security forces have worsened women’s lives.”
“The Philippines is a notorious example of a state that uses the gender and human rights cards to appear to look good before the UN and in the international community. The government may have signed on to all international treaties on women’s rights and human rights, and it may have all the laws on this regard, but on the ground, the situation gives a different story,” she concluded.
Krista “Kiri” Dalena
Convenor, Tanggol Bayi
Cristina “Tinay” Palabay
co-convenor, Tanggol Bayi
KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights