I remember just recently, when I went to Japan for a conference, I had the opportunity to meet the Philippine Ambassador to the said country. I went there as part of a multi-sectoral consultation for the rights of Japanese-Filipino children (JFC). The Ambassador asked all the youth participants there their collegiate courses.

He then asked me what I am taking up now, I proudly said “journalism Mr. Ambassador.” He smiled and said that the profession I am taking is dangerous and deadly.

I have heard such commentaries a lot of times and such statements are sadly validated by statistics and the different human rights watch groups. And now, in a disgusting manifestation of warlordism and brute force of those in power, ticks are added on the number of killed journalists, women and innocent civilians.

Worst, the said warlords of Maguindanao, the Ampatuan clan, is a known ally of President Gloria Arroyo. It is saddening how a woman president who is expected to advance women’s rights as human rights does otherwise.

As of now, 57 bodies were dug up and there are reports that all the women were raped first before they were killed. Also, the bodies of Mangudadatu women (the rival clan of the Ampatuans) were found to be severely mutilated.

Yesterday was the celebration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. A commemoration of the date when in 1960 the Mirabal sisters of the Dominican Republic were brutally assassinated by the dictator Rafael Trujillo. The three sisters Minerva, Patria and Maria Teresa were political activists who then actively opposed the dictatorship.

The three sisters were called “Inolvidables Mariposas” or the “Unforgettable Butterflies” whose death helped propel the anti-Trujillo movement that brought the end of the dictatorship.

According to the online site of United Nations “[t]he memory of the Mirabal sisters and their struggle for freedom and respect for human rights for all has transformed them into symbols of dignity and inspiration. They are symbols against prejudice and stereotypes, and their lives raised the spirits of all those they encountered and later, after their death, not only those in the Dominican Republic but others around the world.”

This celebration was first declared from the 18th to the 21st of July in 1981 by the Feminist Encuentro for Latin America and the Caribbean in Colombia. During that time the women voiced out their condemnation of gender violence (domestic battery, rape, sexual harassment, state violence including torture and abuses of women political prisoners).

And in the year 1991, through the Center for Women’s Global Leadership with the 23 women participants, from 20 countries, of the Women’s Global Institute on Women, Violence and Human Rights, the global campaign of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence was launched.

This 16 Days of Activism involves other significant dates namely:  November 25 (International Day Against Violence Against Women); December 1 (World AIDS Day); December 6, (the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, when 14 women engineering students were gunned down for being feminists); and December 10 (Human Rights Day).

In light of this campaign let us all vow to put an end to such a system that coddle violence against women and violations on human rights. Let us strongly condemn this culture of impunity.

Let us pledge to end this system that breeds a feudal-patriarchal culture. Let us not forget the contributions of the many martyrs who in the time of darkness have offered their lives so that we can gain freedom and celebrate our democratic rights.

Let us demand justice from a woman president who for the past years have empty boasts of narrowing the gender gap.




* United Nations online (http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/news/vawd.html)