The Marcos fascist regime, which meant 14 years of terror to the Filipino people, inflicted some of the most inhuman state-sponsored violence against women (VAW) on the biggest number of Filipinas since WWII. This should be one big reason for women and for men who honor their wives, mothers, sisters, aunts and grandmothers to oppose historical revisions about that era and resist a return to autocratic rule.
As we join the global 16 Days of Activism against VAW on its 25th year, KAISA KA, a women’s organization in the struggle for women’s emancipation and social change, deems it fit and timely to focus on state-sponsored violence against women.
Heinous forms of VAW
Most of the victims of violence during the dictatorship are in their senior years now and many have died. Many women had passed away without fully disclosing their stories about gang-rape, rape using foreign objects like pistols, sexual battering and other harrowing experiences in the hands of soldiers, to whom the Marcos dictatorship has practically given license and privileges. Most of these victims, though, have told their husbands, their best friends, their confidantes.
Victims of state-sponsored VAW during those dark years included not only women who were arrested and detained for being suspects of subversion but also young daughters of farmers that soldiers met in the barrios (rural barangays), women working in bars that soldiers frequented, even a few actresses that certain units of the military intelligence were attracted to and thus were declared as “suspected subversive elements.”
Soldiers subjected women visiting detained relatives to unnecessary frisking, oftentimes, while throwing obscenities or groping their private parts. Some would peek at couples in conjugal enclosures. Pregnant women were not spared. And some interrogators threatened to rape girl-children of detainees being investigated if they do not “cooperate.”
In the rural areas, countless mothers suffered the anguish of seeing their children go hungry or not being able to feed them on time as soldiers would prevent the movement of supplies they bought from the town markets or would destroy their crops, accusing them of providing food stuff for rebels.
The list of the various forms of violence could be very long. But most heart rending were the several cases of abduction of innocent children of suspected rebels. Military detachments displayed these children for a while, a psychological ploy, ostensibly to prevent rebels from conducting attacks and to lure the parents to surrender.
A Reason for Alarm
It is alarming that for several months now, while President Duterte has drummed up total agreement and support for his war against drugs, creating a culture of fear and silence (to question and criticize), some people, especially in the social media were also actively spreading the so-called positive outcomes of martial law and extolling the “appropriateness” of a “strongman rule” for the Philippines. Even as he interspaced his comments with character
While he sounded during the presidential campaign like he was merely warning drug lords, dealers, pushers and users so that they could change, it has become clear that he was true to his byword: kill, kill, kill. A day after his inaugural, the Duterte did not mince words when at San Beda College, he said, “Ang due process ay sa korte. Hindi ninyo mahahanap yan sa akin.” (Due process is in the courts. You cannot find it in me). In different occasions, he said, he does not care for human rights.
Alleged drug lords, dealers, pushers and users killed is now around 5,000. Duterte however, bids for a longer time for his “war against drugs” because as he has his own list of suspects, he realized that more “nonhumans” have to be killed. He is asking Congress to bring back death penalty and to lower the age of minors who could be charged criminally from the present 17 years old to 12-9 years old. Not content with the present security forces, he has voiced his intent to build a gendarme, “something like the former Philippine Constabulary.”
All his critics from heads of States (US and the Vatican) to neophyte Senator Leila de Lima received a verbal thrashing adding character defamation and shaming for the Lady Senator and now echoed by his allies in a “super-majority Congress”.
He even threatened the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court about declaring martial law after she instructed judges in Duterte’s list of “drug personalities” to not surrender. He apologized a few days afterwards but lately, he warned that if lawlessness escalates he would be forced to suspend the writ of habeas corpus.
As the killings are continuously desensitizing people, Duterte ushers in Ferdinand Marcos, Jr’s return and rise to power by introducing him in China as “the next vice president, if he wins his case against Vice President Leni Robredo” and by finally allowing the burial of the dictator Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNMB).
Clearly now, Duterte is heading towards a kind of rule that approximates martial law.
More reason for women to oppose tyranny
Open fascist rule in itself spells danger for women. When even “rules of discipline” of the state security forces can be set aside in the name of “securing the state”, women become open prey of powerful sections that are licensed to kill.
A culture of rape-as-punishment being promoted now is ominous of how bad a Duterte fascist rule will be for women. Threatening to rape (and kill) women who question or criticize the president’s ideas and actions has not been as widely used as now and by the very persons promoting through the social media a pro-martial law/pro- strongman-rule culture and adulation of Duterte. And the president, who never apologized for his ill remark on the rape of an Australian despite strong criticisms from here and from other parts of the world, has never issued a public censure to stop this culture of violence against women. Instead, his speeches continue to mirror his own disrespect and low regard for women.
Misogynist Duterte could make a fascist rule doubly menacing for women. We should resist it now. Oppose the return of tyranny!
No to all forms of violence against women!
Resist state violence against women!