Women’s group opposes Charter Change, calls for prioritizing social services, welfare, and women’s health

Women’s group opposes Charter Change, calls for prioritizing social services, welfare, and women’s health

The Center for Women’s Resources (CWR) reiterates its opposition to the latest attempt to amend the 1987 Constitution amidst the escalating economic crises in the Philippines and globally. In recent weeks, top political figures, including Rep. Martin Romualdez, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s cousin, have once again intensified efforts to push for charter change. 

The women’s group believes that recent strategies employed by charter change proponents such as sponsored television advertisements, signature campaigns, and petitions are mere attempts to create the illusion of popular support for charter change. In reality, these are just tactics used to push the agenda of those in power. 

The proposed charter change aims to push for provisions to liberalize the economy further and open the country to foreign investments under the guise of economic development and prosperity. Notably, Senate President Miguel Zubiri reiterated in a press conference that their charter change review will be on the basis of liberalization policies in the Public Service Act to allow foreign ownership of public services.

Contrary to addressing the multitude of economic problems the Filipino people are subjected to,

further opening up the country’s resources to foreign control contradicts rural development and building national industries. These are critical steps to respond to the chronic crisis of hunger and unemployment. CWR stresses the need to tackle the root causes of economic and social crisis, cautioning against using constitutional reforms to allow foreign investors to exploit the country’s resources. 

CWR also flags the significant increase in the budget allocation of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) from ₱2.2 billion to ₱14 billion, earmarked for conducting and supervising elections, referenda, recall votes and plebiscites. This is a far cry from its usual appropriation in the last five years – ₱2.2 billion in 2023 and 2022, ₱2.1 billion in 2021, and ₱1.9 billion in 2020 and 2019. 

The group raises its concern on the increased budget while noting that allocation for social protection such as direct health services and for addressing the well-being and welfare of the most vulnerable members of our society remain insufficient. 

In 2023, only ₱296.3 billion was allocated for the Department of Health’s budget, with 33.8% dedicated to PhilHealth, thus, private households still cover the majority of health expenses, with 41.5% being out-of-pocket expenditures. CWR notes that these funds, if reallocated, can be spent on HPV vaccines for 1.2 million young women and breast cancer screenings for 6.3 million women, which can reduce out of pocket expenses for women and their families.

Furthermore, it is apparent that the push for charter change not only aims at economic revisions but to facilitate the extension of possible term limits, allowing the ruling clique and political dynasties to expand their authority and remain in power – very on-brand Marcosian tactics.

CWR urges the Filipino people to remain vigilant and unite against attempts to further liberalize the Philippine economy through constitutional change, and to be wary of attempts of those in power to perpetuate their authority. Alongside this, Filipino people must unite to call for genuine economic change, emphasizing a shift to building national industries, creating decent jobs with livable wages, and providing social welfare to Filipino women and people. #

PH Gov’t #3 buyer of Israeli arms used to fund Palestine genocide, killing women & children

PH Gov’t #3 buyer of Israeli arms used to fund Palestine genocide, killing women & children

The Center for Women’s Resources joins people’s organizations and rights groups in condemning the Philippine government for its complicity to the Israeli genocide in Palestine. Its position in the recent UN resolution calling for a humanitarian truce, where the Philippine government abstained, clearly shows where its support and interest lies – to the oppressors and repressive regimes backed by imperialist powers and colonizers who continuously violate international human rights and humanitarian laws.   

According to the Gaza Health Ministry, more than 8,000 Palestinians have been killed since October 7, including 3,648 children and 2,187 women. Despite its own people demanding an end to the violence in Palestine, the extremist Zionist regime resorted to cold-bloodedly targeting civilians, homes, schools, hospitals and churches with absolute disregard of human rights and international humanitarian law.

Before this, the Palestinian people, especially in Gaza strip, have suffered decades of bombings, offensives, and blockade of food, water, electricity and supplies from the Israeli government, an extreme violation Palestinian’s right to life and self-determination.

The Philippine government’s abstention to the resolution and its full support to Israel is appalling. The position however comes as no surprise when the Philippine government, under Pres. Duterte has kept Israel as a close military ally, purchasing P15 billion worth of arms from Israel since 2018.

The Marcos Jr. administration is no different from the Duterte administration in playing a crucial role in supporting Israel’s genocide in Palestine.

Despite 30,000 Filipinos living in Israel and 100 in the Gaza Strip, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. expressed support to Israel, assuring that the Philippines will always stand with Israel in its war against the Hamas. However, this kind of support further legitimizes Israel’s impunity and violence inflicted not only to the Palestinian people, but also endangering the lives of Filipino migrant workers.

We also condemn the US government’s support and for heavily funding the Israeli government’s atrocities, all for its strategic expansion of their imperialist control over the Middle East and the region’s oil and gas reserves. For decades, billions of dollars’ worth of US military aid and armaments paved the way for Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land.

The Center for Women’s Resources (CWR) stands with Palestine because Palestinians and Filipinos share a common history fighting against colonial rule and oppression in all of its forms – reforms, protest actions, political campaigns, and armed struggle – all towards liberation, genuine freedom, and democracy. #

Filipino women mired in gender equality and human rights setbacks despite CEDAW commitment – women’s think tank

Filipino women mired in gender equality and human rights setbacks despite CEDAW commitment – women’s think tank

Forty year-old research institution Center for Women’s Resources (CWR) reports worsening gender inequality and human rights violations against Filipino women, an alarming lack of commitment of the PH government to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), during 9th periodic review for the Philippines this October.

Neoliberal development policies of liberalization, privatization, and deregulation, along with state repression, resulted in the patterns of violations encroaching upon women’s economic, social, cultural, civil, and political rights. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing inequalities and discrimination, adding to the difficulties endured by Filipino women.

Economic insecurity, joblessness, and abuse of workers’ rights

According to the May 2023 Labor Force Survey, over 21.14 million Filipino women are “economically insecure”. This includes the unemployed (996,000), those lacking work and income or underemployed (1.899 million), and those outside the labor force (18.248 million).

The number of unemployed women doubled during the pandemic, from 852,000 in 2019 to 1.69 million in 2020. Many women lost their jobs and livelihoods, particularly in sectors that shuttered during lockdowns. By December 2022, an estimated 2.2 million individuals were unemployed, with 1.06 million being women.

Gender wage inequality remains a pressing issue, with women consistently earning less than men. The gender pay gap across occupations ranges from 4% to 44%, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). In a case study by CWR in Northern Luzon provinces, women farm workers receive 28.57% lower wages than men, earning $5.45 compared to men’s $7.25. In other rural communities, women earn just $2.72 for a day’s work.

Due to the lack of viable jobs in the country, many Filipino women are forced to go abroad as migrant workers in low-skilled, low-wage, insecure jobs. In 2019, there were 1.23 million overseas Filipino women workers, 24% more than men.

Abuse against migrant workers also persists. In 2020, the Middle East recorded 4,302 cases of OFW abuse. There were also 23,714 contract violations reported, including passport confiscation and the failure to provide domestic workers with the protections outlined in labor codes and labor protection laws.

Cases of violence and abuse remain high

Most violence victims come from the poorest quintile, 16% of women in the lowest wealth quintile have endured physical violence. Poverty deters many women from pursuing legal action due to the high costs, lengthy procedures, and complexity of the judicial process. Two in five women (42%) age 15–49 who have experienced physical or sexual violence have never sought help to end the violence or told anyone about the violence.

Alarmingly, top officials in the country perpetuate misogyny that could encourage violence against women and contribute to the culture of impunity. Filipino women are also subjected to objectification and sexualization in media, advertising, and politics.

Women and girls are forced into prostitution and various forms of body commodification due to poverty. Increased use of technology coupled with restrictions in mobility during the pandemic also gave rise to new methods of commodifying women’s bodies as “traditional” prostitution transitioned online.

Lack of access to judicial and legal processes

Women also continue to suffer from the slow and ineffective justice system. From July 2016 to December 2022, there were 66 women victims of extrajudicial killings, many of whom are women human rights defenders. There are also cases of enforced disappearances and abductions believed to be detained against their will in military camps and facilities.

As of June 2022, there were 162 women political prisoners and 14,073 women deprived of liberty (WDLs). In the Correctional Institution for Women (CIW), 67% of the detained women are jobless and/or housewives/housekeepers or are in the informal sector with meager income and lacking social protection, and mainly commit crimes closely linked to poverty. These women continue to suffer from congestion and poor living conditions in jail facilities.

Violation of women’s right to political participation

Women’s meaningful participation in public life is vital in ensuring that their concerns and perspectives are integrated into decisions and policy-making processes. Concerningly, instances of harassment against women’s representation persist. Gabriela Women’s Party, the sole women’s political party and sectoral representation in the Philippine Congress, faces ongoing disqualification cases filed by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) with the Commission on Elections.

Attacks against women human rights defenders and civil society

Women human rights defenders who are at the forefront of the fight for land, jobs, wages, public services, and against extractivist projects continue to face direct attacks from state agents. From July 2016 to December 2022, there were 66 women victims of extrajudicial killings. This includes human rights worker Elisa Badayos, killed in 2017; Zara Alvarez, a human rights advocate, educator, paralegal, and health activist killed in 2020; and Leonila Pesadilla, an active member of the Compostela Farmers’ Association and has been vocal in their opposition to major mining projects in their community.

There are also cases of enforced disappearance such as Loi Magbanua, a labor organizer and women’s and LGBT rights advocate, who was abducted along with a fellow labor organizer, and peasant organizers and human rights defenders Cha Pampoza and Elgene Mungcal who went missing in Moncada, Tarlac. 

As of June 2022, there were 162 women political prisoners. This includes human rights workers Alexandrea Pacalda and Glendhyl Malabanan, development worker Rita Espinoza, writer and women’s rights advocate Adora Faye de Vera, community journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio, and peasant women organizer Amanda Echanis.

The Center for Women’s Resources joins women’s groups and rights defenders in their call to the Philippine government to fulfill its obligation as a signatory to the CEDAW and its local counterpart, the Magna Carta of Women. We challenge the Marcos Jr administration to fulfill the following demands:

1. Respect and fulfill the recommendations of UNHRC member states;
2. Allow Special Procedures and mandate holders to conduct official visits within the Philippines;
3. Undertake a comprehensive review of macroeconomic neoliberal policies; and lastly,
4. Revoke the Anti-Terror Law, Executive Order 70 and disband the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) to ensure a secure and supportive environment for the crucial work carried out by advocates for women’s rights and human rights defenders. #

CWR’s full submission to the Office of High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) can be accessed here.

More than half a century later, women face the same repressive conditions under the dictator’s son

More than half a century later, women face the same repressive conditions under the dictator’s son

The Center for Women’s Resources joins the Filipino people in commemorating the 51st anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law, one of the darkest moments in Philippine history under the Marcos dictatorship. Fifty one years later, women continue to face the same crisis, corruption, and brutal forms of political repression.

We remember the courageous and fierce women of the resistance that continue to inspire us today. We remember trade union activist, Elsa “Liza” Balando, who was killed by military forces; community organizer, Rizalina Ilagan, who was forcibly disappeared; student writers, Liliosa Hilao and Nimfa “Nona” Del Rosario; and Maria Lorena Barros who was instrumental in mobilizing women’s resistance against the Marcos dictatorship.

Tens of thousands were killed, imprisoned, tortured, and were never seen again by their families under the Marcos Sr. regime. More than half a century later, women face the same conditions under the dictator’s son.

The son’s Anti-Terror Law is the father’s Martial Law

In recent months, we have seen increasing cases of use of the Anti-Terror Law against human rights defenders and activists. With its ambiguous and sweeping definitions, it has empowered authorities to label activists and human rights defenders as terrorists or enemies of the state. 

Many of the individuals and activists charged by Anti Terror Law,  those included in the terrorist list, and those subjected to relentless attacks are rights defenders who are at the forefront of the fight against neoliberal development and repressive state policies impacting women’s and people’s lives.

From July 2016 to December 2022, there were 66 women victims of extrajudicial killings. Amongst them are educators, health activists, human rights advocates, and small farmers opposing destructive development projects in their communities.

Meanwhile, enforced disappearances remain rampant. Labor organizer Loi Magbanua is yet to be surfaced since her enforced disappearance in May 2022. This is the same case with peasant organizers Cha Pampoza and Elgene Mungcal, who went missing in Tarlac. There are also 162 women political prisoners as of June 2022, including human rights workers, development workers, writers, peasant organizers, journalists, and youth. These individuals have been detained without due process, often on trumped-up charges, and are denied their basic rights while in custody. The imprisonment of these women not only silences their voices but also serves as a warning to others who dare to speak out against injustices. The government’s lack of action and transparency in addressing these cases has only fueled public outrage and further eroded trust in the justice system and undermines the country’s “commitment to upholding human rights”. 

Despite these relentless attacks and the worsening economic and social crisis, we stand firm, committed, and grounded. It is with the same courage and grit that we reaffirm our commitment to hold tyrants, plunderers, and rights violators accountable. It is in this way that we honor the brave women and men who fought the same battle before us.  #

NTF-ELCAC and AFP’s lies on the abduction of 2 anti-reclamation activists in CL exposed

NTF-ELCAC and AFP’s lies on the abduction of 2 anti-reclamation activists in CL exposed

The Center for Women’s Resources urgently seeks the immediate release of Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro, two dedicated young environmental advocates who were abducted by armed men on September 2, 2023, in the province of Bataan.

Contrary to the statements released by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Jonila Castro revealed that they were indeed abducted by individuals who identified themselves as military personnel in a press conference held today, September 19. Jonila said that they were forced to sign the affidavit created by the military stating that they voluntarily surrendered to the state forces. 

The military even tried to counter Jonila’s statements by saying that syndicates were responsible for their abduction. On the other hand, the NTF-ELCAC is trying to weave more lies by saying that the case of the two young women is “an elaborate hoax and scam perpetrated by the leftist movement on the public.” The truth however is that Jonila and Jhed currently remain in the custody of the military in Plaridel, Bulacan.

It must be noted that the NTF-ELCAC is well known to be involved in the surveillance, harassment, and threats against community organizers and environmental human rights defenders. 

Instead of trying to propagate more false statements, the NTF-ELCAC and the military must immediately and safely release Jonila and Jhed. The government has the highest obligation to ensure that the rights of the two young women are respected and upheld, including their rights against illegal/arbitrary detention, physical and/or psychological torture, due process, and independent and competent legal assistance. 

CWR joins rights groups and the families and friends of Jonila and Jhed in the call to release them immediately, and to stop the attacks on environmental and women human rights defenders. #