On the Occasion of March 8 as International Day of Toiling Women
STATEMENT ON THE 21ST YEAR OF INNABUYOG
On this year’s observance of March 8 as International Day of Toiling Women, we celebrate the twenty one years of ardent struggle of the indigenous women’s movement in the Cordillera led by Innabuyog. We celebrate two decades of struggles to uphold the rights of indigenous women and other democratic sectors of women. At this juncture, we will reap the gains of 21 years, expand and consolidate the militant women’s mass movement in the Cordillera.
We hail our pioneers in their brilliant decision to set up Innabuyog on 6-8 March 1990 to serve as the center of the women’s mass movement in the Cordillera region, Philippines. Such was a historic event for indigenous women in the region to be part and contribute to the building of the progressive national women’s movement in the Philippines and to the wider peoples’ movement for self-determination, national freedom and democracy.
The founding happened at a time that Filipino people were facing the cruel face of the total war policy by then Pres. Cory Aquino who was presented by media internationally as a government that restored democracy from the Marcos dictatorship. The unsheathing of the sword of war was concretized through Oplan Lambat Bitag, a nation-wide strategy of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to crush insurgency by 1991 but re-adjusted to the end of the US-Aquino regime which was June 1992. The military employed clearing and holding of target communities which concretely meant bombing and displacement of target communities in the valleys of Marag, Paco, Zinundungan and Conner in Apayao, Pinukpuk and Balbalan in Kaling and in Lacub and Malibong in Abra. Battalion-sized deployment were done in these provinces including Mountain Province. Equally, economic crisis was steadily experienced nationwide. At this perverse situation, Innabuyog became the shield of indigenous peasant women, they resisted by binding themselves into provincial chapters of Innabuyog in the next two years. Slow but steady growth was seen in the succeeding years. Innabuyog is yet the only women’s organization in the Cordillera that challenged repressive situations and be at the forefront of women’s struggles.
From the US-Aquino regime to another US-Aquino regime. In the twenty one years of struggle, Innabuyog survived 5 regimes, who from one after another, recycled a military campaign and an economic development plan that created further impoverishment and disempowerment of Cordillera indigenous women and their communities. The soft approach of the Ramos administration and its sell-out of government-owned and controlled corporations in furthering the imperialist globalization agenda; the macho-fascist government of Estrada who was ousted eventually by another people power; and the bloody trail of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearance under the regime of Macapagal-Arroyo through her infamous Oplan Bantay Laya. The current administration of PNoy Aquino is carrying out the same policies of previous hated regimes despite his battlecry for good governance and against corruption. All had the blessings of the US government and all had displayed their loyalty to US imperialism. All had the objective of ending the revolutionary movement, on the contrary, all contributed in fertilizing a ground for a dynamic women and peoples’ movement.
We grew from 20 founding organizations to more than a hundred. In our 21 years of struggle, we celebrate the strength that we have developed and the lessons that we have learned. We join other women of the world in entering the 2nd century of meaningful struggles for women’s liberation. The issues of women 100 years ago of ten working hours, low wages, generally inhuman conditions, right to suffrage and an end to child labor galvanized an international women’s movement with the International Labor movement declaring March 8 as International Working Women’s Day on 8 March 1910. These issues which were articulated 100 years ago remain to be living issues to the ordinary toiling women, world-wide.
In the Philippines, the women’s participation in the struggle is never short of courage. Filipino women first commemorated the day on March 8, 1971. Hundreds of women from the KATIPUNAN or Katipunan ng Bagong Kababaihan staged an all-women rally against the issue of poverty. The rally was spearheaded by women of MAKIBAKA, an organization comprised mainly of women students and mothers from the urban poor communities; members of the Kabataang Makabayan-Women's Bureau and those from the SDK or Samahan ng Demokratikong Kabataan. The declaration of Martial Law by Ferdinand Marcos in 1972 seized this thriving movement, forcing some women to go underground. With the establishment of GABRIELA in 1984, women continued the militant tradition of commemorating IWWD, honoring the great contribution of toiling women in the struggle.
One hundred years have passed since that historical mark created by women. We continue to struggle for better living and better status in society. In the Philippines, women and children are the largest victims of the state’s neglect and brutality. From one regime to another, the Philippine government continues to rely on foreign debt, foreign investments and labor export as its key economic strategy. Currently, every Filipino now shoulders P35,000.00 as debt with the national debt already at P4.2 trillion which doubled from 2001 national debt.
The present regime of PNoy hypes of hope and change for Filipinos. In reality his strategies for national development are mere recycling of previous regimes which didn’t bring actual difference. To entice foreign investments, his response is the Public-Private Partnership (PPP). The Conditional Cash Transfer continues the dole-out hunger mitigation program of Macapagal-Arroyo’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, which only reinforces the culture of dependence instead of self-reliance and economic empowerment. Oplan Bayanihan is being set to replace murderous Oplan Bantay Laya of Macapagal-Arroyo.
Prices of oil products have steadily been increasing creating a domino effect on the prices of basic commodities, utilities and services. Budget cuts particularly for social services have been imposed. The budget for agriculture for year 2011 declined from P89.22 billion to P66.05 billion. By next year, the budget for public hospitals nationwide will face a total of P970.6 million cut. Budget cuts are happening while corruption continues in the bureaucracy, the latest scandal of which is the pay-offs for retired military generals receiving close to P500 million military slush fund.
The women in the Cordillera continue to bear the brunt of the economic crisis, the consequencies of the corruption in the bureaucracy and the pursued militarization. The enforcement of the Philippine Mining Act in inviting foreign mining corporations continue to face resistance from indigenous communities. Positively, peoples’ actions against mining projects have enabled legislative actions at the local and national levels. The defense of our land, food and resources will remain as our utmost responsibility.
On March 8, we bring forth the gains of 21 years of women’s struggles in upholding women’s rights and welfare. We will uphold these gains and raise these to higher ground of struggles in the next years to come. We will persevere in arousing, organizing and mobilizing indigenous women in the pursuit of land, food and rights. We will continue to resist the plunder of our resources and fight the intensifying oppression of women and peoples in the Cordillera. To exist is to resist, to resist is to exist. Innabuyog will exist until oppression, exploitation and forms of discrimination against women, persist.
Innabuyog, alliance of indigenous women’s organizations in the Cordillera, Philippines
GABRIELA Chapter in the Cordillera