Filipino women amid militarism: resisting, asserting

14 July 2017

In his upcoming second State of the Nation Address, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte needs to explain to the Filipino people, especially among Filipino women, the reason of using a militaristic approach in solving crimes and terrorism. The overflowing of blood of the Filipinos could hardly be acceptable especially to mothers, sisters, daughters, and wives. Women believe that peace and security can never be achieved with an unjust war. Such view has been consolidated by the Center for Women’s Resources (CWR), a research and training institution, in its publication “Women in Southeast Asia: Resisting Militarism, Asserting Sovereignty”.

CWR pronounces that war exists not just in Mindanao. It happens everywhere in the Philippines. It remains because a culture of militarism seeps into the framework of governance. As militarism prevails, violence and violations continue to exist that eventually result to a humanitarian crisis like in Marawi City.

The Marawi humanitarian crisis – with over 200,00 people displaced where 50,000 of them are children – shows us a glimpse of the human rights condition in the country that is happening for almost 50 years now. Martial law and militaristic approach did not leave when Ferdinand Marcos was ousted from power. His successors copied his iron hand method and they continuously unsheath the sword of war and destruction. And they can hold on to power because of US support both overtly and covertly to ensure its political and economic control in the country way after its direct colonial rule eons of years ago.

Reasons behind militarism

Amid this culture of militarism, women and children bear the brunt of massive military operations, which are displacement, malnutrition, harassment, or even death, among others. Such culture prevails because it continues the colonial tradition of curtailing liberties. The militaristic approach is used as a political leverage among the people who assert their democratic rights.

One major reason for a militaristic approach is to protect the large-scale exploitation and exploration of the country’s resources by foreign and national corporations. Observably, those areas rich in resources like Mindanao are also the areas with intensive military operations.

Militarism also serves as a tool to muffle protests from the toiling poor especially peasants and workers. Whenever they assert their rights, they are considered rebels who should be eliminated. To date, farmers, indigenous peoples, and workers remain as the highest number of victims of arrest, disapperances, and politically motivated extra-judicial killings.

Militarism legitimizes unrestrained human rights violations and US involvement especially in the guise to “curb terrorism”. The Marawi City is the latest example of this carnage, adding to the Zamboanga siege and Mamasapano incident during the Aquino administration.

Disaster militarism justifies the increase of foreign military troops especially from the US. For instance, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has emphasized the need of US presence for the delivery of relief in the Haiyan typhoon-stricken areas. Barely five months after the huge show of force in post-disaster areas, the US and Philippine government signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) in April 2014. Disaster militarism adds to the strategy of “winning the hearts and minds” of the people where soldiers could be portrayed as kind and humane.

Women’s call for peace

Women have seen and cried enough. War and militarism cause economic insecurity, harmful impacts on physical, sexual, and mental health, amplified social roles and participation among women. That is why, they have every right to heed for the end of the excessive violence.

As they experience military operations, women realize the need for a louder voice to be heard. They recognize their own collective power to attain genuine peace and security. Amid militarism, the Filipino women continue to assert and resist to build a society free from fear and hunger.

(Note: The book “Women in Southeast Asia: Resisting Militarism, Asserting Sovereignty” is available in CWR office, you may contact 411-2796 or email contact@cwrweb.org)