Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Center, Inc. (CWEARC) denounces the red tagging and vilification of the Philippine National Police (PNP) through its Facebook pages “Pnp Rmfb Wolverines” and “Kapulisan ng Kalinga” on CWEARC’s campaign to support the frontliners in our country’s battle against the COVID-19 virus.
On March 31, 2020, both pages posted a publication material that blatantly red tagged CWEARC. PNP grabbed CWEARC’s #TieARedRibbon poster and accused the campaign as a deceptive strategy of organizations affiliated with terrorist groups to ask for donations that they claim will not reach the frontliners. In this manner, the PNP is identifying CWEARC as an affiliate organization of terrorist groups, specifically the CPP-NPA/NDF.
CWEARC is a grassroots-oriented, non-profit, non-government development organization that provides support to various Cordillera women’s formations, particularly indigenous women’s groups, in organizing, educating and providing direct social and economic support services. It was established on March 8, 1987 by indigenous peasant women, urban poor, workers, youth, professionals, and women from religious institutions. This year, it celebrates its 33 years of building the capacity of Cordillera women in upholding their rights and welfare.
17 days since President Rodrigo Duterte declared the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), public and private hospitals still struggle to provide extensive services to both patients and non-patients of COVID-19 and at the same time, provide sufficient supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for their health workers and volunteers. With the lack of support for our health workers and volunteers, we have seen them face the COVID-19 battle unprotected and now, many of them have succumbed to the virus.
As a result, individuals and organizations all over the country launched the Tie A Red Ribbon campaign in support of COVID-19 frontliners and in recognition of the selflessness of those who have perished. CWEARC then published a poster on its Facebook page on March 26, 2020 to encourage everyone to join the campaign by tying a red ribbon outside their homes. The said post never asked for donations of any kind. Its only purpose is to boost our frontliners’ morale and to show them that we are one with them in demanding proper decisive government action to fight this pandemic.
CWEARC stresses that the campaign is a gesture to support our frontliners and it is not an act to aid terrorist groups. The posts of the PNP are highly deplorable! It tarnishes the purpose of the campaign and the organization, and has the malicious intent of vilifying CWEARC. When an individual or organization is vilified, they become open targets of various forms of human rights violat
ions. In this time of a global pandemic, the PNP still finds time to shamelessly vilify legitimate organizations that are initiating programs for the benefit of our country. For an institution that should “Serve and Protect” its constituents, instilling fear on organizations and the community is utterly irresponsible. Instead of wasting productive time, we call on them to redirect their indiscriminate red-tagging campaign resources to more appropriate actions in line with their mandate. Where is your solidarity with the frontliners of COVID-19?
CWEARC will not be daunted by the PNP’s baseless and malicious accusations. We will persist on raising our voices and forward the demands of the nation to directly address the current international health emergency. We will carry on to be in solidarity with variou
s networks in actively giving aid to indigenous communities and groups adversely affected by the current crisis in the Cordillera. In fact, CWEARC is exerting efforts presently to support our frontliners and vulnerable sectors, as many organizations and individuals are doing presently.
We give our highest salute to fallen health workers and volunteers. May you all rest in power. To our health workers and volunteers who continue to persist in this battle, we send our prayers.
Kasiyana, we shall overcome!
(A Keynote address delivered by Kathleen T. Okubo, member of CWEARC’s Board of Trustees, on the 37th biennial conference of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT), November 9-11, 2017, in Quezon City. The theme of the 3-day conference: Broadcasting and Social Justice: Women in the Media on Conflict and Crises.)
Ladies, women of the world, colleagues in media work, and gentlemen; Naimbag a bigat yo amin! (Good morning! In my region of the Philippines.)
Apparently, we are here to confer about the world as women in the profession of broadcasting particularly, and as journalists sharing stories of news events, comments, opinion and analysis from our corners of the world to the world audience.
As women journalists in the task of informing, educating, entertaining, telling the truth to the public, is especially more highly expected of us, and if we make a mistake or fumble, the alleged delicate frailties of being women are put to blame. And, we do “hold-up-half-of-the-sky,” dont’t we? Also, as all people go through the daily pressures imposed by the present conditions of “globalization.” Also, all people – women, man and child, face the global effects and threats of “climate change”… yet we still are “just women” who also have to give birth, care and nurture the children and the home.
For being “just women”, we are prone or relegated to being called “the usual victims” of sex crimes, victims of bullying, sexual harassment, of discrimination from opportunities to choose or advance careers like “everyone” else, or be part of decision making at every aspect of being in or of belonging to a community, even to receive equal pay for equal work. Though they never tell us, the generally discriminating macho world still tries to make us feel like lesser citizens. Yet, being a woman empowered in the profession as journalism, we are somehow expected to persevere to build a better and sustainable life for us and for our communities.
It must be for that better world seen in the horizon that we must stand up against all odds, not only for us as individuals but for the future of this generation and the next, and the next… So it is in us to know and recognize what the driving factors are behind capitalism, imperialism, neoliberalism or globalization. It is said to be what history has been trying to impress on us that brings the inequalities where the rich became richer. Where despots and tyrants became real and numerous against the bigger numbers of the world population. And that women and children are first to suffer the negative effects of globalization and climate change.
World leaders and economy experts argue for or against neoliberalism or globalization while outside their rich enclaves the majority of the population, to which most of us are, continue to suffer the fast decline of world economy.
Breakthrough of the Philippine Star (by Elfren S. Cruz, Nov. 5, 2017) describes globalization “As the rich became richer, their wealth was supposed to start “trickling down” to the poor so that ultimately everyone would benefit from the rich accumulating more wealth. This theory has never worked. Income inequality has reached a level unprecedented in human history.”
Here in the Philippines, the think-tank Ibon tells us that Marcos initiated “Globalization” which led to economic decline.
“In 1980, the Marcos regime actually made the Philippines the first country in Asia and the second country in the world, after Turkey, to be at the receiving end of a World Bank structural adjustment loans (SAL). The conditionalities of the US$200 million loan included among others tariff cuts, removal of import licenses and quantitative restrictions, lowering protections, and exportpromotion – all in line with the market-oriented restructuring of the economy. This first SAL and another US$302 million one in 1984 were the historic spearheads of subsequent decades of trade and investment liberalization in the country.” (— from Anyare? Economic Decline Since Marcos)
By the way, in a few days the ASEAN meet will start with US president Donald Trump in attendance on his first official visit to this country. This kind of meetings are said to be where the first world countries dictate on third world countries, not on equal footing nor for equal advantage or for mutual benefit. We wonder, for how much more will government bid out of our country’s sovereignty… these information usually do not hit the airwaves or print. And, the nationalist militant movement is expected to launch a protest rally against the imperialist led confab. “No to globalization.”
Since Marcos initiated the “trade and investment liberalization in the country” there was an aggressive move for the country’s remaining natural resources which were by then in areas occupied (defended homes) by the indigenous peoples here. It was near this period that government worked with World Bank backing to increase extractive industries in the region where I come from and was in media work… in the Cordillera, the home of the indigenous peoples called Igorots (or people of the mountains).
While I did not choose to be a broadcaster but took advantage of an opportunity to get inked in my youth in a small press where my father worked as a printer and published the first weekly community newspaper launched some five years after WWII in the Cordillera region northern Luzon. Aside from writing for my high school paper, I worked two summers with this weekly tabloid where I earned an on- the-job-training in newswriting and newspapering before I entered the university.
Marcos was already president then. The Vietnam war under the Americans was at its height. The international protest movement against the Vietnam war was raging, the Philippines was no exemption.
The campaign for Philippine national democracy was revitalized. This movement grew larger and was clearly anti-imperialist. In reaction to their growing strength, Marcos suspended the Writ of Habeas Corpus followed by the declaration of Martial law (1971-1986).
I was arrested as an activist and was a political detainee several times under martial law, and even after it was lifted (1986), the last time I was detained for being ‘involved’ was in 1992 under President Ramos.
It was also in the mid-70s that the Cordillera was militarized to further open large scale mining, to take over the forest and rivers to make way for large development projects like: 4 mega dams along the Chico River, and the forests of Abra and Mountain Province for logs and resin to export and pulp for paper, etc.
The Tinggians, Bontocs, Ibalois and Kalingas organized and mobilized themselves to resist and defend their ancestral domain from these aggressive projects that did not include them at all. The women in these communities stood up and fought beside their men in ways only organized women can do. Bare breasts they faced and stood against the armed Philippine Constabulary to stop a mining company. In protest, the women had dismantled a whole construction camp and carried the machinery and debris piece by piece several kilometers away to the soldiers’ town headquarters.
These and many more stories of people’s resistance and their resilience sparked great inspiration among local women writers and journalists who covered these communities and the growing movement of indigenous peoples defending their right to their ancestral domains, their culture and their villages, against government troops and a tyrannical government.
As a journalist, I have been seriously threatened with libel twice, one because of the editorial on violation of labor rights in a large mining operation and the other for printing a story of a rape and sexual harassment case involving an influential politician. I was pregnant with my youngest, still writing and active with the Cordillera News and Features, when I was threatened by a Malacanang-coddled militia group for stories critical of their activities and making true death threats against human rights defenders.
In the late 70s a few newspapers guardedly published stories about the growing protest among the Igorots. If they did, the stories were terribly edited, misinforming, and insensitive of the Igorot’s culture and history. This prompted some writers in the Cordillera to support an alternative news dispatch from Baguio sent out to all friendly media outfits, broadcast and print, to allow the Igorots “to sing their own songs” and build solidarity ties against oppression and injustice.
That news dispatch slept and was several times revived. It has now grown to be a weekly community paper circulating in the northern Luzon regions and has never missed an issue for the past 15 years. It promised and strives to be the newspaper of the people (umili). It is very dependent on the communities it covers and writes about to be able to continue. At several times it was dominated by women writers. The newspaper and its writers continue to be harassed by people in government and the military. But, in its lifetime as the “Dyario ti Umili” it has learned to stand by its readers and stand by organized communities, allies and partners in the area of coverage and widen its circulation or reach among the unorganized sectors, by providing the information and issues to educate and heighten awareness.
Its only strength and defense is the truth from the eyes of the people, and the larger sector of empowered communities. To us as women in media, we see women’s liberation and emancipation in the drive to change the exploitative and oppressive situation by keeping our minds open and never stop learning or studying, this further arms ourselves with needed tools to do our tasks of gathering and sharing information to our audience, educating and empowering them with tools of analysis to overcome false information, half truths, lies and black propaganda.
Let us continue to unite on these basic values for the good of the greater majority, organize and unite to further serve the communities. Ladies and partners in the struggle, let us be one in the goal to uplift life’s standards for all! Salamat (Thank you).
“If we stop defending our rights because of fear from the harassments and intimidation being perpetrated by state security forces upon us then we might as well be dead.” This was a statement by one of the women leaders who attended the Women Human Rights Defenders training workshop for Cordillera women held on September 9 to 10 in Diliman, Quezon City.
Spearheaded by Cordillera Womens Education Action Research Center (CWEARC) and Innabuyog, 60 women leaders and organizers from the six Cordillera provinces gathered together in the training workshop who vowed to safeguard and protect their rights as a people and as women against state perpetrated violence and violations of their rights. National minority women from other regions of the Philippines from places as far as Mindanao and Palawan were also present during the activity. While they were there mainly as observers, they also ended up sharing their own accounts and experiences in defending and protecting their rights as they similarly encountered the same or even graver human rights situation than their counterparts in the Cordillera.
The activity in the main provided a framework for understanding human rights that could further build the capacity of women leaders and organizers in addressing the human rights situation in their localities. The main input was given by the Cordillera Human Right Alliance Vice Chairperson Audrey Beltran. She provided the basics on documentation which can be used as a guide whenever women are confronted with cases of human rights violations. She also discussed how they can assert their rights through para-legal means even without the benefit of lawyers around. The activity also provided a venue for sharing of experiences by the women on the human rights situation in their villages underscoring the situation of women and children. They also exchanged accounts on how they confronted the numerous cases of state perpetrated violations in their communities from past to present.
The women expressed that violations of their rights are common whenever projects or programs are brought in by the government or when big companies enter into their localities where there is opposition from the people because of the possible adverse or negative impacts. Some destructive programs and projects opposed by the people were mining ventures of big companies such as Golden Lake and Olympus in Lacub & Baay-Licuan in Abra, Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company operations in Mankayan, Benguet, the construction of the Alimit Dam in Ifugao and Chevron-PRC Magma’s Geothermal Power Plant in Kalinga. Women of Sagada, Mountain Province reported the Peace and Development Team (PDT) of the AFP program supposed to maintain the peace and order in the locality has allowed state troops to occupy the Dap-ay, an indigenous socio-political structure where elders meet.
The women recall of their experiences on the militarization of their villages which had debilitating and even long lasting effects. Farmers are not allowed to tend their fields disrupting economic activities in the communities (Kalinga, Ifugao and Abra). Military troops encamp in schools, health centers or even houses making them their temporary detachments or quarters endangering the lives of civilians like in the cases of Lacub in Abra and Balbalan in Kalinga. Aerial bombings have left many, especially children traumatized (Malibcong, Abra). Many had been suspected of being members and supporters of the New People’s Army (NPA) making them vulnerable to harassments and intimidations and where some have been summarily killed. Women organizers of Innabuyog, and women development workers of other NGO’s have been tagged by the military as members of the said armed revolutionary organization.
In addition, women in the communities have suffered from particular forms of violence by state security forces. Sexual harassment and abuse had been common. Soldiers also court the women, even a number who are married, impregnate some and abandon them after they leave the area. Children have become vulnerable where they are made to act as spies.
The abovementioned problems faced by the women have not cowed them into fear or submission. Despite what they reported as the difficulties they suffered from the militarization of their villages, they still persist. In fact the women expressed becoming emboldened and more determined to act upon their situation after they heard stories of courage from women in other regions who dealt with state sanctioned atrocities and violence. They also remembered how their elders and their ancestors steadfastly fought to protect their lands and resources so that they and the next generations could still enjoy the natural wealth of their ancestral lands. These became their source of inspiration.
The participants were jubilant over the success of the training workshop since they said it gave them encouragement having established reciprocal and mutual support in facing their common situation. It reaffirmed their commitment of working together starting at the level of their communities and in unity with other women in the regional and national levels in defending and protecting their rights, resources and lands.
The training workshop ended through the drafting and signing of a unity declaration which defines the program of action that will be carried out by the women in the continuing struggle to defend and safeguard their rights especially that under the present administration of Duterte, human rights violations has not stopped and is in fact escalating.
Indigenous communities are basically agricultural or peasant communities. An important indicator telling of change in an indigenous peasant women’s life is her family’s harvest or agricultural produce. In the phenomenon of climate change, an indigenous peasant woman would refer to a decrease to her family’s harvest to describe the environmental changes. Hence, it is important for every indigenous peasant woman to be keen of her family’s produce or harvest. This is a knowledge she learned from her long engagement of the land and the environment. Her tutors in agriculture production- her parents, fore parents, community elders and experts in traditional agriculture, who are usually women, taught her of the conditions of a particular land area her family or village tills, what care is required , what crops are suitable and the suitable or viable production cycle. She knows how many bundles of rice are produces per paddy and how long the harvest normally lasts.
The factor which could create a variable in their harvest are pests, water supply or irrigation and weather conditions like droughts, strong rains and typhoons. The stories that indigenous peasant women tell show these factors had always been treated as natural and so it was also natural for the farmers to adjust. In the process, they as farmers learn to cope up with the environmental changes. They develop innovations and corresponding adjustments or changes in their agricultural practices, develop new varieties of crops and innovated to maintain productivity. All these were part of their indigenous knowledge on agricultural production and bio-diversity management.
The last two centuries are hallmarked with great strides in technology, production and the standards of living, but these advances were achieved by the lopsided and illogical use and abuse of the world’s resources, which are mostly concentrated in indigenous territories. Abuse of the resources were done for the benefit of a few and to the detriment of the many, most especially the tenders and stewards of these resources.
At the forefront of this injustice are insatiable giant corporations of capitalist or northern countries whose relentless pursuit for profits demand the command of vast energy and natural resources. This arrangement led to massive environmental destruction and resources wars aside from massive environmental destruction and resource wars aside from massive dispossession and impoverishment of large numbers of peoples all over the world.
The last two centuries of increasing emissions and ecological destruction coincide with the two centuries of worsening economic inequality between and within the countries- the increasing concentration of wealth to a narrow global elite, colonial and neo-colonial subordination of countries, corporate takeover and exploitation of natural and productive resources of the south, loss of economic and policy sovereignty of southern countries to powerful and multilateral institutions as the world bank (WB), international monetary fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The system that has resulted in climate change is the same system behind structural poverty underdevelopment, which magnifies the vulnerability of millions, especially indigenous peoples, who have little or no responsibility for causing climate change (Lauron, People’s Movement on Climate Change 2010).
The United Nations intergovernmental Panel on climate change (UNFCCC) reported in 2007a steady increase in green-house gas (GHG) emissions due to human activities – from 70 percent between 1970 and 2004. Additional studies have highlighted the compounding negative impact of global warming on human livelihoods in the context of the global food and energy crisis. These include dwindling crop yields in most tropical and sub-tropical regions, decreased availability of water in many water – scarce regions, desertification and land degradation processes, change in rainfall patterns, rising sea levels, dwindling natural resource productivity and in some cases, irreversible loss of biodiversity (Kelkar,2009).
Climate change cannot be ignored as this impact seriously on the planet’s life. The adverse impacts of climate change are compounding the long-standing development crises confronting the mass of humanity. Negotiations on solutions to the climate crises are made on various levels by governments yet hardly that solutions are reached to alleviate small producers adversely affected by the climate occurring.
Their slogan remains to be “business as usual” and their greed for profit is evident in their push for market-based solutions. The presence of World Bank and giant corporations in climate talks and negotiations would tell the intentions. The drivers of the global capitalist systems is notably exploiting the climate crisis to develop, legitimize and enforce self-serving solutions that create new profit opportunities, and sustain and expand corporate power over natural resources, production and energy systems, funds and technologies.
The greatest injustice is that the peoples most involved in ecological or environmental balance and sustainability are the ones who are made to bear the worst impacts every day of their lives.
Indigenous peasants are still manage to cope and make the necessary adjustments being when asked, their common response resilient survivors. When asked, their common response is that indeed they are able to make the necessary adjustments but they do admit that their capacity to cope is becoming more difficult. Their coping mechanisms can no longer match the survival level for unprecedented loss or decline in their produce as a result of climate change. It is also crucial to note that the coping or solution required in a fast-changing situation of environment or climate cannot simply be on an individual level. Indigenous peasant women agree that solutions can only be arrived at when they are part of the solutions as they are the ones who suffer gravely of any loss or decline in harvest.
The urgent concern of rural and indigenous women is to address the climate crises and to look at how the dominant socio-economic system has breached ecological limits and destabilized the planet’s climate. Mitigation and adaptation measures detached from context and development aspirations of rural and indigenous women renege on commitments to biodiversity and sustainable development.
The Philippines is the number one labor exporting country in the world today. As of 2004, there were approximately 8.2 million Filipinos scattered in 182 countries all over the world. An estimated 4,010 Filipino workers leave he country each in search for jobs and greener pastures abroad. In 2004, OFW remittances amounted to US15-16 billion (ILO Data, 2005), contributing almost half of the countries gross domestic product (GDP). The cordillera region has the third highest number of OFWs of all regions in the Philippines, of whom 77% are women.
It is therefore not surprising that the widespread migration of Filipinos to other countries is an issue close to the hearts and stomachs of millions of Filipinos. It is not farfetched to believe that each Filipino family has a relative, friend or acquaintance working abroad. Each day, we hear and face various issues and problems of OFWs in our own homes, workplaces, offices, schools, market, communities, as well as in the media.
Yet, not many of us fully understand the issue of migration and the factors that push Filipinos to work abroad. There are those who still believe that going abroad is due to a high ambition in life, or that it is a trait of Filipinos to be adventurous and to want to see the world. But it is now becoming clear that poverty and unemployment are the main reason for migration- a forced migration of desperate people, who are being sold, commercialized all over the world by our own government.
This research on the situation of overseas Filipino workers from the cordillera was conducted by the cordillera women’s education and resource center (CWERC) in 2002 in order to know more about the actual conditions of women OFWs and their families in the region. Case studies were done in selected communities, secondary date were gathered from government and non-government sources, and documentation of particular cases of individual victims was done, including the toll it has taken on families of OFWs.
The research also aims to present the historical context, which led to the widespread migration of Filipinos, and the role of the government in encouraging such migration. The research further shows that there are major contradictions between the labor export policy (LEP) of government and its professed role to protect the rights and welfare of Filipino migrant workers and their families.
With this issue of Kali on “Filipino Women Migrant Workers: Commodities for Export”, we expose the issue of labor export and forced migration, we sympathize with the many OFWs who are victims of maltreatment, abuse and violence, and salute the millions of migrant workers who are the unsung Filipino heroes of today.