In time for President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s SONA: Women call to C.O.M.B.A.T. Now!

Amid the incessant and massive military operations not only in Mindanao but also in several parts of the Philippines, we in the Center for Women’s Resources (CWR) call to C.O.M.B.A.T. Now! so as to resolve the worsening humanitarian crisis in the country. To enumerate:

C – conflict resolution through resumption of peace talks
For the nth time, peace talks between the government and the revolutionary forces come to a halt. As stakeholders, women take interest in the resumption of peace talks because this long-standing internal war aggravates their impoverished condition. As military operations go unabated in the countryside, peasant women and their families could not tend their farms and their children could not go to school. As the government puts large budget in defense and counter-revolutionary programs, women and their families suffer the brunt of economic crisis such as layoffs, loss of social services, and hunger. As the military uses rape and violence as tools of war and suppression, women – especially human rights defenders – suffer such abuse.

O – opportunity to the toiling women through job security and just wages
Seven in ten persons of those not in the labor force are women. Worse, the promise of the Duterte government to end contractualization results to mere circumventing of laws and still allows labor flexibilization. Its new Department Order 174 disallows labor-only contracting but at the same time, legitimizes job contracting through manpower agencies as an employment agency. In effect, women workers continue to toil as non-regular or temporary workers. There is one part-time worker to every two full-time workers. Approximately, there are 3.2 million women who could not find regular jobs. And to those who find jobs receive below-minimum wage that is 40% short (national average) of the family living wage (Php1,119 as computed by Ibon Foundation) for a family of six.

M – mitigate people’s suffering through end of martial law and incessant military operations
Everyday, hundreds of thousands are fleeing their homes not only in Marawi City but also in the entire Mindanao islands as well as rural people in Luzon and Visayas. Instead of listening to the advices of his pro-US military minions namely DND chief Delfin Lorenzana, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, and AFP Chief Eduardo Año, President Duterte should pay attention to the people’s call to end martial law and militarization in their communities. It is only in stopping the massive military operations and bombings in the communities that people could regain their lives and livelihood.

B – be beholden to the people instead of being beholden to his military advisers
Related to the abovementioned issue of militarization, President Duterte should remember that he owes his presidential victory to the Filipino people who believed in his promise of change. Thus, he should be beholden to the will of the people instead of following the militaristic advices of his officials, namely Lorenzana, Esperon, and Año. President Duterte should always rely on the people’s power to protect him because history has proven that only the force of the people can turn the tide.

A – agrarian reform for the tillers
Nine out of 10 farmers remain landless. Peasant women are doubly burdened by poverty brought by landlessness as they are expected to take care of domestic chores as well as participate in farm production. Worse, liberalization of agricultural trade has aggravated the deprived condition of peasant women and their families. With the export-oriented and import-dependent framework of the government, the agricultural
products from other countries flood the local market. Filipino farmers could not compete with the imported products since these products are sold cheaper than the locally produced ones. Thus, peasant women and families perennially suffer poverty.

T – tenacious stance against foreign intervention
President Duterte has gained respect and admiration from the people with his anti-American stance during the early days of his presidency. Gradually, however, his real program and policies unfold a framework similar to his predecessors. His economic policy shows pro-business measures and free-market framework that fail to answer the underdevelopment and poverty of the country. His military approach, as above mentioned, has been largely influenced by his advisers who are making the Duterte government in conflict with the people’s interest. President Duterte himself admitted that his “soldiers are pro-American, that I cannot deny.” (11 June 2017). The president has sold us some unconventional statements but it remains to be seen whether he can walk the talk. Now, more than ever compels every Filipino woman to alter the disquieting human rights condition in the country.

Now, more than ever directs every Filipino woman for a collective action. Now, more than ever needs a stronger voice to persuade President Duterte to listen to the people’s demands. For this reason, women loudly call to C.O.M.B.A.T. NOW!