GWP Rep. Emmi A. De Jesus
Plenary, House of Representatives
2 February 2016
Mr. Speaker, next week, February 9, the campaign period for the May 2016 elections will start. Also next month, March 2016, the world will observe the International Month for Women, highlighted by the International Women’s Day on March 8. Traditionally, the Gabriela Women’s Party observes the International Month for Women by holding month-long activities that bring the women all over the country out of their homes and into the streets to drum up the issues confronting them. But next month, members of this House, most of whom are candidates for various posts in the May 2016 elections, will no longer be around to observe the International Month for Women since by then they will be in the thick of the election campaign. Despite that, Mr. Speaker, we in the GWP believe that we should not forfeit the observance of the month dedicated for women. So, in the spirit of observing March 8 as the International Women’s Day and the month of March as the International Month for Women, I rise today on a personal and collective privilege to speak once again on the issues confronting our women and children, particularly on how such issues should have a place in the run up toward the May elections.
The election season is in the air and we believe this is an opportune moment for bringing women’s issues into the forefront of election debates to better inform our electorate in making a decision this May 2016. This representation would like to urge my colleagues to take up the challenge of rising to the occasion. As you start barnstorming your districts, provinces and cities next week to court the votes of your target constituents, I urge you to raise the level of our election engagement by including women’s issues as part of your campaign discourse.
On this note, Mr. Speaker, I am proud to inform my colleagues that the Gabriela Women’s Party has framed our participation in the May partylist elections as one big education campaign for women with the encompassing theme ‘Labanan ang Abuso’.
Make no mistake about it. The theme is not a mere continuity of our fight against patriarchy and domestic violence. For one thing, Labanan ang Abuso is an essay of our nuanced analysis that abuses of women in our society actually take multifarious forms, that they are not simply a domestic issue. The Gabriela Women’s Party holds that a woman factory worker who receives a wage of only P350/day under a contractual employment tenure is as much abused as the daughter who is kept from school by her patriarchal father; that an unemployed wife who cannot buy the goods for her family meal because of high prices or a woman who is deprived of medical services for her sick child because of the privatization of public hospitals, such women are as much abused as the wife who was abandoned by her husband; and further, the indigenous woman who was forced to evacuate her community because of military atrocities is as much abused as the wife who is beaten every night by her drunkard husband. Notwithstanding the analogy, such abuses have greater far-reaching impact on women than domestic abuse.
Thus, more than fighting those two old scourges of women, Labanan ang Abuso also marks the resolve of the Gabriela Women’s Party to educate our women this election campaign on the government policies, social institutions and structures responsible for abusing, impoverishing and marginalizing our women and to synergize them into a long-term movement for change.
So in this election campaign, the Gabriela Women’s Party will make this election campaign period as the public tribunal for putting into trial the perpetrators of such abuses, they be individuals or social institutions. We will engage our constituents on a deep-going discussion on our government’s policy weaknesses that, among others, cause the massive unemployment and poverty of our people, that condemn our workers to starvation wage, that cause the malnutrition of 26 % of our children, that deprive Filipino families of basic social services, that put basic commodities and public utilities such as water and electricity beyond the reach of poor Filipinos, that force 5,000 Filipinos a day to leave this country for employment abroad; and that cause the perpetuation of extra-judicial killings and other human rights violations, thereby instigating the forced evacuation of lumad communities.
Just recently, or on January 17 this year, another extra-judicial killing was committed in Talaingod by a member of a paramilitary group Alamara, of which the victim was a 15-year old lumad minor. To those who believe that the issue had already died down, we will prove them wrong as we will continue to demand in the coming election campaign ‘Stop the lumad killings’. And a few days ago, or on January 27, a 60-year old woman anti-mining activist, Teresita Navacilla was shot to death in Compostela Valley by men believed to be members of the AFP-backed paramilitary groups. While we take her death as a portent of the violence that will be directed during the election campaign period against partylists and mass organizations associated with the Makabayan bloc, we vow right here and right now that we will not be cowed. Whoever is responsible for her death will be prosecuted in our Labanan ang Abuso and the candidates who tolerated or supported her killers will be judged accordingly this May 2016.
Most importantly, Mr. Speaker, it is an essential part of Labanan ang Abuso to continue advocating to our constituents that legislative agenda which we believe constitute the solutions to the problems afflicting our people and women. We will persevere in rejecting traditional politics and in upholding the politics for change. We will continue to call for price control of basic commodities, free basic social services, and subsidy for essential public utilities. We will share to our farmers and workers our voice in demanding for genuine land reform and nationalist industrialization as the primary government programs for addressing unemployment and poverty. As we believe that the wage issue is also a women’s issue, we will spread the demand for increasing the minimum wage of our workers. We will also instill in the minds of our constituents the need for resuming the peace talks between the GPH and the National Democratic Front and the release of political prisoners, especially the women political prisoners. And to put a stop to extra-judicial killings and other human rights violations in our lumad communities, we will continue to demand for the respect of ancestral domain of our indigenous peoples, the disbandment of paramilitary groups and the return of the military to the barracks.
It is our earnest hope that with this theme in our campaign, the Gabriela Women’s Party can contribute to making the election discourse more meaningful and enable our electorate to cast an informed vote this May.
Having said all this, Mr. Speaker, I would like to reiterate to our colleagues the challenge I posed early on. As each one of us goes into election stumping starting next week, let us make the issues mentioned in this speech an essential part of our public discourse. Let us make the public discussion in this coming election more substantially meaningful. Join us, the Gabriela Women’s Party, in educating our women this election. Join us in our theme, Labanan natin ang abuso!
Maraming salamat, Mr. Speaker.