Monday, June 15, 2015

Women Organizing for Peace in the Philippines

Speech delivered as a part of Women Cross the DMZ events at the Women's Peace Symposium on May 26, 2015, in Seoul, Korea.

Lisa Maza speaking at Women Cross the DMZ walk in Pyongyang, North Korea with 7,000 North Korean women, Niana Liu 
Greetings of peace to all especially to the  courageous and
joyous women who are gathered here today calling for Peace
and Reunification of Korea! Let me also convey to you the
warm wishes of solidarity from GABRIELA Philippines and
the International Women's Alliance (IWA), a global alliance
of grassroots women's organizations.    
I am honored to speak before you today to share the
experiences of Filipino women in organizing for peace in
my country. I have been with the parliament of the state
as representative of the Gabriela Women’s Party to the
Philippine Congress for nine years and in the parliament
of the streets as a feminist activist of the GABRIELA
Women’s Coalition for half my lifetime. I will talk about
the work of peace building of my organization, GABRIELA.
Having been colonized by Spain for 300 years, by the US
for more than 40 years and occupied by Japan during WWII,
the Filipino people have a long history of struggle for peace
that is inextricably linked to the struggle for national sovereignty,
social justice and genuine freedom.  The Filipino women were
at the forefront of these struggles and played important and
leading roles.
Despite formal independence in 1946, our country remains a
neo-colony of the US. The US still dominates our economic,
political, and socio-cultural life. One of the most telling
manifestations of such control was the US occupation for
almost a century of our prime lands to maintain its military
facilities including two of its largest military bases outside
its territory - the Subic Bay Naval base and the Clark Air
base.  These bases served as springboard for US interventionist
war in Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East.
The sites of these US bases became haven for the 'rest and
recreation' industry where women and children's bodies were
sold in prostitution for a price of a hamburger; where women
were viewed as mere sex objects and the culture of violence
against women pervaded; and where thousands of Amer-Asian
children were left impoverished and abandoned by their
American fathers.    
In addition to these social costs, the US has not owned up
responsibility for cleaning up the toxic wastes left after the
bases were removed in 1991 and for the health hazards these
wastes continue to pose to the people in the community.
And like in the camp towns in South Korea, innumerable cases
of crimes  including murder, rape and sexual abuse were
committed with impunity by US troops with many of these
cases not even reaching the courts.      
These compelling realities are the very reasons why we
oppose the presence of US military bases and troops in
the Philippines and beyond. We believe that there can
never be long and lasting peace as long as we are under
the control of the US or any other foreign power. And we
cannot have a free and sovereign state with the presence
of foreign troops on our land.
The women brought into the anti-bases argument the
discourse on the social costs of the bases and why the
removal of the US bases and troops is important for women. 
GABRIELA, the biggest progressive alliance of women’s
organizations in the Philippines which was organized in 1984
at the height of the anti-Marcos dictatorship movement
brought the issue of prostitution of women around the base
areas and the puppetry of the dictator to US interests. Marcos
was deposed in a people power that became a model to the world.
The Philippines subsequently passed the 1987 Constitution with
clear provisions against the presence of foreign troops, bases and
nuclear weapons on our soil.    
The historic Senate rejection of a new treaty that would extend
the Military Bases Agreement with the United States beyond
1991 was another victory for women.  Leading up to the Senate
vote, women conducted massive information campaigns, held
pickets, demonstrations, caravans, die-ins, lobby work and
networking both locally and internationally to pressure the
government to reject the treaty. The efforts of the women and
the broad anti-bases movement finally led to the termination
of the bases agreement.      
But our struggle continues. In flagrant violation of our Constitution,
the US in collusion with the Philippine government was able
to reassert its military presence through the Visiting Forces
Agreement of 1998 and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation
Agreement of 2014, agreements that are more dangerous
than the previous agreement they replaced. These agreements
allow the US military free and unhampered use of virtually the
entire Philippines for its basing needs and for rapid forward
deployment of its forces as part of the US pivot to Asia policy.
This heightening US military presence is also happening here
in South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand,
Indonesia, Pakistan, and Australia among others.    
Filipino women at the grassroots - the rural and indigenous
women, workers, youth and students, housewives, professionals,
religious and other sectors continue to organize. The women
are aware that massive poverty and hunger and the
marginalization, discrimination and violence against women
are intensified by the policies of imperialist globalization
which is carried out, propped up and sustained by militarization
and war.    
Furthermore, the policy of militarization and war diverts the
much needed funds and resources that could have been used
to create jobs for the 10 million unemployed and underemployed;
to build homes for the 22 million homeless; to build school
buildings, day care centers for children and crisis centers for
women, and hospitals and health clinics in remote villages;
to provide free education, health and reproductive care and
other social services for the poor; and to develop our agriculture
and industry.    
We build long and lasting peace that is based on social justice
and where women participate in the process and not the peace
based on silencing the poor and powerless that militarist and war
\mongers do.  
In conclusion, let me take this opportunity to convey the Filipino
women's solidarity with the women of Korea. Our fathers and
brothers were also sent to fight the Korean War and our
grandmothers and mothers were also victims and survivors
as comfort women during the Japanese occupation. 
We share this memory of war and women's exploitation,
oppression and abuse. But today we also affirm our collective
memory of struggle against all these as we persist and
continue to work for peace in both our countries, in our Asian
region and the world.

Liza Maza is a 
former Congresswoman representing Gabriela Women’s Party to the Philippine House of Representatives, and Chairperson of the International Women’s Alliance (IWA). She has been a key part of  GABRIELA’s Purple Rose Campaign, a global campaign to end sex trafficking in Filipino women and children.

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