On December 17, 1999, the United Nations General Assembly designated November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (IDEVAW). It also marks the beginning of the 16 days campaign to end gender-based violence which ends on December 10, designated as the International Human Rights Day which highlights the link between violence against women and human rights and emphasizes that such violence is violation of human rights.
November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (IDEVAW). It also marks the beginning of the 16 days campaign to end gender-based violence which ends on December 10, designated as the International Human Rights Day which highlights the link between violence against women and human rights and emphasizes that such violence is violation of human rights.
The date came from the assassination of the 3 Mirabal sisters, political activists in the Dominican Republic, on November 25, 1960 on orders of the dictator, Gen. Rafael Trujillo. After their assassination, the Mirabal sisters became known as the Unforgettable Butterflies. Their assassination catapulted them into becoming symbols of resistance. Now, the Butterflies became synonymous to women’s struggle for genuine freedom and social justice amidst tyrannical rule.
In the Philippines, the situation is no different from that which pushed the Butterflies to become symbols of resistance and hope. Filipino women, especially those in the margins, continue to experience violence in all its forms without proper redress despite the more than 37 laws and policies that protect, uphold and promote women’s rights and welfare. Government statistics show that one Filipina is raped every 72 minutes while one in four women experience domestic violence by their husband or partner.
Here in the Cordillera, the Women’s Desk of the Philippine National Police recorded 3,272 cases of violence against women (VAW) since President Rodrigo Roa Duterte was sworn into office in 2016 until June this year. The highest of these cases (2,115) are violations of the RA 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004 while the second highest (779) are cases of rape.
Cases of state-perpetrated violence has also increased and intensified. The government, in its view of the Cordilleras as a resource base for exploitation at the expense of the welfare of the umili, has allowed the rapid entry of various development aggression projects in the region. At present, 276 mining claims covering 60% of the total land area of the Cordillera and 105 energy projects (6 geothermal and 99 hydropower) threaten the control and access of indigenous women and their communities over their land and natural resources. With this, Cordillera women have always displayed resistance against these projects since time immemorial. In fact, they have been at the forefront of these struggles.
Because of this, Cordillera women are subjected to state-sanctioned abuses. It has worsened when President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Executive Order No. 70, a directive to institutionalize the “whole-of-nation approach” and create a national task force to end local communist armed conflict, on December 4, 2018. Women human rights defenders are being slapped with trumped-up charges. One of whom is Rachel Mariano, who was detained in Ilocos Sur for almost a year and was acquitted by the Regional Trial Court Judge Mario Anacleto Bañez last September 4. Two months after, Judge Bañez was shot dead while on his way home in La Union.
Meanwhile, during orientations of the Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (ELCAC) all over Cordillera, the military and police malign legitimate organizations, including Innabuyog as fronts of “communist terrorist groups”. Innabuyog leaders and members are being tagged as either supporters or members of the New Peoples’ Army.
As a result, more than 20 cases of human rights violations against women from January to November of this year was documented. The cases include red-tagging, threat, harassment and intimidation, surveillance, and fake surrender attempts.
In these trying times, we see the Butterflies in each woman who dares to fight for our land, resources, rights and dignity against all odds.
As we commemorate the 16-day campaign to end gender-based violence, we celebrate the lives of the Cordillera women who tirelessly toiled to alleviate the situation of all women in the region and in the country while we urge the Duterte regime to respect, uphold, and protect our human rights. We then call on our kakailians to unite with us and intensify our call for justice for all victims of state fascism and all forms of VAW in the Cordillera. Let the legacy of the Butterflies be our source of inspiration to continue standing up for what is just and right.