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Women Human Rights Defenders claim escalating violations committed against women by the government

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In celebration of the International Women’s Month, the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), a mission partner of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMTRSP), extends its solidarity with the women’s movement. TFDP condemns all attacks on women rights defenders and forms of violations against women human rights defenders who are subject to arrests, ill-treatment, stigmatization, threats, detention and killings by the Duterte administration.

“Women human rights defenders suffer the same fate as other human rights defenders who are being harassed and threatened both online and offline, subjected to misogynistic comments and abuses, tagged as enemies of the State, detained, and worse, killed because of their legitimate human rights work,” TFDP claimed.

TFDP cited few of their documented cases on human rights violations committed against women human rights defenders by the government and private corporations.

“Just like in the case of Sister Susan Octavio Bolanio, 66 years old, Oblates of Notre Dame (OND) congregation, who has been receiving series of texts messages, red-tagging and associating her with the New People’s Army (NPA). This is because of Sr. Bolanio’s involvement in supporting members and indigenous rights defenders of Tboli-Manobo S’daf Claimants Organization (TAMASCO) in their claim to ancestral domain. She also led the fact finding mission on the reported killings of members of TAMASCO last December 3, 2017 in Barangay Ned, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato.” TFDP said.

According to TFDP, another similar case is that of Myra Opada, who together with Lucille Gesta and Aurelia Parangan, officers and members of the Philippine Light Leather Employees Union (PLLEU) at the Mactan Export Processing Zone (MEPZ) in Barangay Pusok, Lapulapu City, Cebu. They were harassed and tagged as “wanted persons” by MEPZ Human Resources personnel because of their trade union work at MEPZ.

“The harassments of MEPZ against Opada and her co-union members can be rooted from the struggles that these women have been leading in defense of their rights as workers,” TFDP added.

TFDP is particularly concerned regarding those women rights defenders who have suffered reprisals and threats for their legitimate human rights work such as red tagging or linking them to alleged rebel groups. These have been the way of government to discredit and silence human rights defenders like Sr. Bolanio and Opada. These actions by the authorities also lead to filing of trumped-up charges against defenders.

In their statement the TFDP reminded President Rodrigo Duterte that his way of expressing his disgusts for human rights defenders especially women during his public appearances abets violence against human rights defenders.

“As the head of state, and because the Philippines is signatory to major international human rights conventions, the government must live up to its commitments to protect women human rights defenders, as they come under increasing attack, and with inadequate protection,” TFDP asserted.

“These conventions and treaties may not be enough to stop his violations, but we always have the Philippine women’s movement that is getting stronger and broader to rely on in exacting justice and holding him accountable to all violations,” TFDP continued.

TFDP strongly believe that women rights defenders need specific and enhanced protection and targeted and deliberate efforts to make the environment in which they operate a safer, more enabling and supporting one by enacting the Human Rights Defenders Protection Bill (House Bill No. 8128) by Rep. Edcel C. Lagman, one of the leaders of Mambabatas Para sa Karapatang Pantao (MAKATAO).

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