Filipino women’s conditions plummet under Marcos Jr. false hopes, empty promises

Pioneer women’s research institution Center for Women’s Resources opens women’s month with biannual Ulat Lila report on the national situation of Filipino women, March 1, 2024.

“In Marcos Jr.’s second year, while still reeling from the impacts of the pandemic, women are faced with even deeper crises – from unemployment and loss of livelihoods, to declining incomes and rising prices of goods and services. Meanwhile, the profits of foreign and local businesses benefiting from the priority programs of the current administration in infrastructure and trade continue to grow.” – Cham Perez, CWR Executive Director.

In its report, CWR notes how the majority of women experience severe crises and remain part of the most impoverished sectors of society. Perez also mentioned how the worsening poverty faced by Filipino people, including women, is primarily attributed to the scarcity of job opportunities and livelihood with decent wages and adequate income.

Between November 2022 and November 2023, 17.3 million women or 55.4% of women aged 15 years and above were not counted in the labor force.

Meanwhile rural women continue to suffer hunger and sink deeper into debt. Five years into the implementation of the Rice Liberalization Law, rural women endure livelihood losses, hunger and grappling with escalating debt burdens. The absence of sufficient subsidies and assistance forces women farmers to turn to micro-lending institutions to cope with soaring farm input expenses. Particularly in Southern Mindanao, women confront mounting debt as farm input expenses soar and product prices plummet, resulting in minimal or no income from production.

The women’s group is also alarmed by the Marcos Jr administration’s push for Charter Change that will further open the country to foreign investment and possible increase in foreign military presence. “Historically, foreign investments did not automatically translate to jobs and livelihood with decent wages and incomes for Filipino women,” added Perez.

CWR’s report also highlighted that during severe crises, women and children endure heightened abuse and exploitation, especially those from impoverished backgrounds who are particularly vulnerable. According to PNP-CIRAS, there were 19,635 reported cases of violence against women and children (VAWC) from January to August 2023, averaging 92 victims per day during this period. The lack of state support, access to public services and state negligence further exacerbate this abuse.

“Moreover, cases of abuse committed by soldiers and police officers continue. These include the rape cases reported by residents in Negros Occidental, Davao City, and in Cebu. While often dismissed as isolated cases, this is a clear exercise of power and impunity. If law enforcers are perpetrators themselves, where else can victims report cases to? In addition, what is more alarming is the number of cases that were unreported due to fear and lack of access to resources and infrastructures to protect victims,” added Perez.

Amidst the crisis and the people’s resistance, the Marcos Jr. administration continues to intensify repression in both urban or rural areas, targeting members of organized unions, community associations, development workers and women human rights defenders.

“Only two years into the Marcos Jr.’s administration, there have been 23 women political detainees. From July 2022 to June 2023, there were already 8 women victims of political extrajudicial killings,” Perez notes.

The report argues that Marcos Jr. administration uses the same playbook used by predecessors and late dictator father. Laws and government institutions are used as instruments to suppress women and people’s movements. Red-tagging, harassment, surveillance, and various forms of attacks against anyone standing up for their democratic rights remain rampant.

“As long as the crisis persists and the dominant neoliberal system serves the interests of the few while the majority suffer, women will stand united with the toiling masses in their struggle for a just and equitable society. Their continuing assertion and resistance is the most potent and sustainable means to achieve structural transformation,” Perez concludes. #

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