8.4.8: Women’s Eight Demands on March 8, the International Women’s Day

8 March 2017

We at the Center for Women’s Resources (CWR) together with our community-based partners and 17 networks nationwide hereby put forward a call, 8.4.8, or women’s eight demands in time for March 8, the International Working Women’s Day. CWR has consolidated these demands from our discussions and interviews with communities all over the country. Women have been drumbeating these demands for decades now but these remain unheeded. Still, we persist. These eight demands are the following:

1. Review and remove economic neoliberal framework; Replace it with people-based, patriotic, and progressive framework

Through the years, the Philippine economy follows the neoliberal or "free market" framework, which has only kept the country underdeveloped. It promotes liberalized trade and investments, flexibilization of labor, privatized public services, and cutbacks on public spending so as to supposedly generate jobs and make the populace less “dependent” on government. It gives the monopoly bourgeoisie and the giant corporations all the opportunities to raise capital resources, to make profits without restrictions, and get big tax cuts from developing economies like the Philippines. Because of such framework, women have experienced depressed wages, vanished job security, declined living standards, uncontrolled increase in prices, among others. Thus, instead of adapting his predecessors’ economic framework, President Rodrigo Duterte should replace this free market and capitalist framework with a patriotic, people-based, and progressive framework.

2. Continue Peace Talks and free all political prisoners

Women want the resumption of peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) because the two groups will proceed to the next level after talking about human rights in Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAHRIHL). They will discuss political and constitutional reforms and sign the draft of the Comprehensive Agreement of Social and Economic Reforms or CASER. CASER encompasses the concerns of women, it contains the agenda that women want, it enumerates the change that women need: social services, social justice, anti-discrimination and elimination of violence against women and children, national sovereignty, genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization, environmental protection, among others. Related to peace negotiations is the call to free all political prisoners, especially the more than 30 women political prisoners. The incumbent government needs to release the political prisoners as part of its obligation stated in the CAHRIHL. Such action will also be seen as a trust-building measure on the side of the government.

3. Ensure women’s economic security

Women’s empowerment starts with women who are secured economically. The promise of the Duterte administration to end contractualization remain unfulfilled. At present, there are 5.4 million Filipino women cannot find decent and regular jobs. Wages are still depressed, where only 7% of women workers enjoy a fair minimum wage of P491 per day. Most of them, especially women in agriculture get P40 lower than their male counterparts. With the unrestrained increase in the prices of basic commodities, the wage of women in the low-income wealth quintile is 44 percent-short to meet the basic needs of their families. Thus, the Duterte administration should now display its political will to end ENDO and prove its bias for the working class.

4. Fulfill state obligation of providing free and quality social services

To be fully productive contributors in nation building, women need all the support to remove them from the drudgery of housework. Most importantly, the abolition of neoliberal policy like privatization of state services on health, education, and housing will definitely uplift women’s condition.

As it is, women and their families take responsibility for their own needs. Instead of allotting budget for facilities, the government encourages the private sector to invest in the health industry while promoting the expansion of social insurance and the share of private out-of-pocket payments has increased from 56.7% in 1994 to 67.5% in 2014. In education, one in every ten (10.6%) or about four million children and youth are out-of-school. Higher out-of-school rate has been recorded for females at 13.3% compared to 7.9% among males. Regarding the issue on housing, there are 21,516 individuals who lost their homes during the Aquino administration and around 4,000 families under the current Duterte administration.

5. Start elimination of violence against women and children (VAWC)

The more Philippine society is ruled by market’s interests, the more women are viewed as commodities or properties. With a development perspective that reduces progress to private profit-driven programs, social institutions keep women at the bottom of society. Women, especially from the lowest wealth quintile, experience more abuses and violence. The latest record obtained by CWR reveals that every 62 minutes, a woman or child is raped and every 14 minutes a woman or child is battered. A remolding of minds should start young. So, children should be taught early about gender sensitivity in order to build and support an environment that is conducive to the needs of both men and women. Additional support centers for victims need to be established on a national scale. Massive information, education, and campaign against VAWC should be encouraged and supported.

6. Ensure Philippines’ sovereignty: implement a genuine independent foreign policy

The nation’s sovereignty has been compromised by the past Aquino administration by signing the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) on April 28, 2014, which allows the return of the US bases in the country. EDCA has been added to the much-contested Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which already gives lopsided benefits to US troops who “visit” the country. President Duterte has yet to prove his earlier pronouncement of an independent foreign policy. As it is, the military exercises and the presence of US troops are visible in the country. President Duterte needs to show his firm stand in asserting our sovereign rights against foreign intervention from US, China, Japan, or any other super power.

7. Uphold human rights, especially the democratic rights of the poor, deprived, and oppressed; oppressive laws and programs should be repealed

The culture of militarism did not exit together with the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986. The post-Marcos administrations, from Cory Aquino to Benigno Aquino have designed counter-insurgency plans that only resulted to thousands of human rights violations.

The continuation of the peacetalks is important so as to pave the way for a just society where human rights violations would be a thing of the past. At present though, human rights are in peril, human rights defenders are under attack. They are met with brute force by government armed forces and private armies of foreign corporations. 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 farm and their children could not go to school. As the government puts larger budget in defense and counter-revolutionary programs, women and their families suffer the brunt of economic crisis such as lay offs, loss of social services, and hunger. As the military uses rape and violence as tools of war and suppression, women – especially activists – suffer such abuse.

The militaristic hand continues under the new Duterte administration. Despite the earlier pronouncement of President Duterte for a ceasefire, military operations persist. Under a new name with an old method of counter-insurgency plan, Oplan Kapayapaan of the Duterte administration has already victimized two women development workers. One alarming report is the encamping of the military in civilian communities, threatening civilians and entering communities in the guise of Oplan Tokhang, the project to clearout illegal drugs. Instead of curtailing the rights of the people, the government should look into the causes of poverty, which is the breeding ground for the illegal drugs trade. The Duterte government should recognize that it is through regular jobs and living wages, land to till, free education and health care that a country will have a drug-free community.

8. Indict former presidents and officials who commit massive human rights violations and plunder of resources

What happened to the plunderers and human rights violators like former presidents Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Benigno Aquino? What happened to their technical malversation and usurpation of legislative powers while in office? Compared to Pres. Duterte’s passion on the war on drugs, how fervent is his campaign to eliminate the plunderers and violators? We have yet to see his political will on this matter and we have yet to watch if justice would really prevail. ###