For the women's sector, nine years of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo means nine years of devastation, corruption, scandals and political repression and killings. Women's group Gabriela challenged President Benigno Aquino III to reverse it and waste no time in taking concrete measures.
The group issued its 10-point demands to Aquino on June 28 at Plaza Miranda in Manila. The group brought with them Sion, a basket-bearing mascot draped with the women's demands and jovially romping around enjoining the people to let their hopes and challenges to the new administration be registered.
“How will Aquino respond to women's demands in his first 100 days in office will be a crucial yardstick in discerning whether or not his new administration has the political will to stand by the interests of the Filipino women and people,” Joms Salvador, deputy secretary general of Gabriela said. She also said the whole nation will be watching how he acts on his promise of hope and positive change for the people.
On top of the list of challenges for Aquino is to prosecute former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for the numerous crimes she committed against the Filipino people. Among these crimes are human rights violations and corruption. “Jail Gloria and free the women and all political prisoners unjustly detained and charged with cases fit for common criminals,” Salvador said.
Among the 344 political prisoners, 62 of them are women and they are most likely being abused sexually and psychologically by their captors. Gabriela said testaments to these abuses are Angie Ipong, a 65-year-old church worker and social activist who was sexually harassed and tortured by her captors, and the women of the 43 health workers, two of whom are pregnant and one is ailing.
One of the cases also highlighted by the group is the case of Myrna Cruz-Abraham, a teacher who was abducted and later found in jail on March 22.
Gabriela reminded President Noynoy Aquino that his late mother, former president Cory Aquino released 441 political prisoners at the start of her term as president.
“We want to remind Aquino that with the dismantling of the Marcos dictatorship, the late-president Corazon Aquino, his mother, granted freedom to all political prisoners upon assuming office as a restorative measure of democracy. We expect his administration to emulate that measure,” said Salvador.
The group also called for a stop to the militarization of urban and rural communities and related violations of civil and political rights. Gabriela said political killings across the country have continued to be committed in the last days of the Arroyo administration and stressed their demand to punish the perpetrators including military officers and civilians.
On foreign policies, Gabriela called for the immediate abrogation of the “one-sided and exploitative” RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement. The group also urged the review of the Mutual Defense Treaty between the U.S. and the Philippines in the spirit of mutual benefit and respect for sovereignty, and for the new administration to carry out appropriate measures concerning such a review.
The group also called for a moratorium on price hikes especially on necessities such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), electricity, water, rice and food. They also added that scrapping the expanded value added tax (E-VAT) and the non-imposition of additional taxes and fees on the people are equally necessary if the president is truly bent on giving the people economic relief.
The group also urged Aquino to provide housing security for the poor by stopping demolitions of urban poor communities and by providing affordable, accessible and decent housing programs. Just recently, the group cited the recently-uncovered anomalous deal between the government and businessman Reghis Romero on housing projects in Smokey Mountain Development and Reclamation Project (SMRDP) in Manila. According to them, there are still seven unfinished buildings left to rot by the contractor.
The group urged the new administration to rescind these anomalous agreements and to promptly review all the housing projects under the Arroyo administration and to impose a moratorium on the lease until a pro-poor and efficient system on socialized housing is in place. “Now is his chance to make good his campaign promise to get rid of corruption in the government,” Lana Linaban secretary general of Gabriela, said.
The group also stressed its agenda on women's reproductive health by challenging the Aquino administration to undertake programs and services that respond positively to the reproductive health needs of women.
The group also called for an increase in the budget allotted for social services such as education, health and housing in order to realize the provision of free or affordable services for the people. Lastly, they challenged Aquino to make gainful employment and job security accessible to women and the people.