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Gabriela says left eyes broad alliance to resist ML plan

08 October 2017

By Vir B. Lumicao

Joan May “Joms” Salvador
The Philippine Left is building the broadest possible alliance to resist plans by “The Madman in Malacañang” to declare martial law nationwide, one of the leaders of the militant women’s group, Gabriela, has said.

Gabriela secretary-general Joan May “Joms” Salvador made the comment at a forum on “Martial Law and the Creeping Dictatorship in the Philippines held at the Kowloon Union Church in Jordan on Sept 22.

“If the (Sept 21) rally was any indication, we would like to mention the presence of church organizations.  In preparation for the rally, the leaders of the Catholic Church were speaking up,” Salvador said in answer to a query about the Left’s gameplan, amid fears President Rodrigo Duterte may be moving towards tyrannical rule.

“We really need the push of the Catholic Church,” she said, adding that the legal Left is always relying on the strength of the people on building the broadest possible unity of people to challenge what they say is President Rodrigo Duterte’s drift to authoritarianism.

She said in planning the successful Sept 21 rally, the left stressed the importance of raising the consciousness of the public to the horrors of martial law.

On the National Democratic Front’s stance to keep its doors open to negotiations, “we leave it to the NDF what to do with the peace talks,” she replied, suggesting that Gabriela is not exactly supporting this move.

Salvador warned that nationwide martial law is looming as Duterte moves to consolidate power while fighting wars on three fronts – drugs, terrorism and insurgency.

She also said despite Duterte’s anti-US diatribes, he had signed a new pact that allows the United States to set up eight Philippine-financed military camps for its troops in the country as part of the Asia Pacific pivot adopted by former President Barack Obama.

Salvador warned it may only be days, weeks or months before Duterte declares nationwide military rule.

She said Duterte promised change, but nothing has changed for the better in the country.

“Nothing has changed in the Philippines, poverty remains, workers’ wages still at very low levels, landlessness continues, women continue to become the face of poverty  experiencing rape and sexual abuses despite proclamations by the government about rights of women,” Salvador said.

On Duterte’s war on drugs, more than 13,000 lives have been lost, mostly poor people including children of OFWs targeted by police in extrajudicial killings, Salvador told her audience of about 30 Filipino and Indonesian human rights activists.

“Honestly, we cannot say if it has peaked because none of the reports from UNHCR, police, government and NGOs could show the exact magnitude of this war,” she said.

Salvador saw no end to the war on drugs after a year of killings, as the police have not made any pronouncement that it is coming to a close.

Duterte has used his war against terrorism to launch a war on Marawi City, and in response to an attack by terrorist group on the city, he put Mindanao under martial law since May 23. Daily air raids have killed over 500 and ruined the city.
Mothers fear for their daughters’ safety because Duterte has told the soldiers in Marawi they can rape women if their elders disobey orders. Given its record of sexual abuses, “it is not unimaginable that (the military is) already committing rape,” Salvador said. She said Gabriela had documented 134 cases of rapes by soldiers, many of them targeting 16 year old girls, with some done inside military camps.

“This is the same institution that Duterte has emboldened to commit the same abuses against women in Marawi and other parts of Mindanao in the guise of the war against terrorism,” Salvador said.

In prosecuting his third war, counterinsurgency, Duterte has devised Oplan Kapayapaan under which he ordered the bombing of schools of lumad children in Mindanao, Salvador said. This oplan, according to her, has killed more than 100 of activists, civilians and workers.

Salvador said that “foulmouthed” Duterte had said he would not allow the US to continue its interventionist policy in the Philippines, he inserted multibillion pesos in the budget next year to finance the building of the eight camps to be used by the US under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

“Duterte is funding the US military camps project with people’s money, diverting funds from much-needed programs for the poor,” Salvador said.

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