November 29, 2012

Reference: Cristina Palabay, Spokesperson

Kiri Lluch Dalena, Convenor

In commemoration of the International Women Human Rights Defenders Day*, Tanggol Bayi (Defend Women) – Philippines** hails the lives and struggles of our martyred Filipina human rights defenders who have continuously inspired us to relentlessly and untiringly aspire for and to act to defend and uphold women’s and people’s rights.

We recall the life and struggle of Juvy Capion, an indigenous woman HRD, who led indigenous peoples in the struggle against incursions of the Philippine government and the Australian mining company SMI-Xstrata. Juvy and her organization of Blaan peoples have resisted the various pay-offs offered by the mining company to drive them away from their ancestral lands. Her husband launched a pangayaw, a traditional form of defense of their ancestral domain. Juvy, who was 27 years old and 2-months pregnant, was massacred together with her two children in October 18, 2012, by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Forty days after, justice has not been served for Juvy, her children and her community.

We recall the life and struggle of Marilou Valle, an urban poor woman leader, who led their urban poor community in Tondo, Manila against the forced eviction and demolition of their homes by the Philippine government. Marilou likewise campaigned for the pull out of military troops in urban civilian communities such as her village. A day before Phil. Pres. Benigno Aquino was about to deliver his State of the Nation Address, Marilou was gunned down and killed by armed “tanods” in her village. Four months after, the perpetrators have not been arrested and justice eludes her family and her fellow urban poor.

We recall the lives and struggles of Benjaline Hernandez and Eden Marcellana, brave human rights workers, who were vocal critics of Oplan Bantay Laya (Operation Freedom Watch), the US-backed counter-insurgency program of former Pres. Arroyo. Beng and Eden exemplified the courage of Filipina human rights defenders as they documented and gathered data on rights violations against the Filipino masses during a period when killings were almost a daily fare. Nine years after their killings, the perpetrators remain free from arrest, while the Aquino government continues to ignore the United Nations Human Rights Committee recommendations on their cases.

We recall the lives and struggles of Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan, young women activists who were organizing farmers in a province to help uplift their plight amid landlessness and exploitative conditions. They were abducted, raped, tortured and disappeared by forces of ex-Maj. Gen. Jovito “The Butcher” Palparan. Six years after, Palparan and his ilk remains free from arrest, despite the charges filed by the mothers of Empeno and Cadapan.

The Filipinas’ collective memory on the struggle of our martyred sisters however goes beyond recollection and commemorative events to recall their lives, their struggles, their plight. Our collective memory moves us to seek justice for all violations against Filipino women and poor people in our country, amid a government which inflicts graver violations on civil and political rights of women. Our collective memory inspires us to study and struggle against all forms of economic oppression and social barriers that hinder the genuine uplift of poor women’s lives. Our collective memory and struggle behoove us to uphold our nation’s sovereignty amid the increasing attacks and plunder of the US and other foreign states. Our collective memory and struggles strengthen our movements, despite various means to silence us through the US-backed counter-insurgency measure, Oplan Bayanihan, of the Aquino government.

We stand in solidarity with the poor and marginalized women of the world—in Gaza and in the Arab region, in the Asia Pacific region, in the Latin Americas and Africa, in the US and Europe—as we confront imperialist globalization, state militarization and government-inspired fundamentalisms. We reaffirm our commitment to carry on the struggles of our sisters.

*29 November marks the anniversary of the opening of the First International Consultation on Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs), organized in 2005 by several human rights organizations in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and of which participants declared 29 November as the International Day on WHRDs. (http://www.defendingwomen-defendingrights.org/resources.php)

**Tanggol Bayi (Defend Women)–Philippines is a member of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) and the International Women’s Alliance (IWA)


About Tanggol Bayi

Established in 2008, Tanggol Bayi is an association of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) in the Philippines. It is formed primarily for the recognition, advancement, and protection of the rights of women human rights defenders who are advocating for the realization of human rights.
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