Just barely a day before we observe International Women’s Day, our hearts were bruised anew by the agony of a Filipino household worker in Hongkong who was terminated after being diagnosed with stage three (3) cervical cancer. Losing her access to medical treatment, Baby Jane Allas has only two weeks left before she is sent back to the Philippines. A single mother of 5 children, a bleak prospect awaits her in the Philippines as she fights for her life and her family’s future.
Her tribulations epitomize the plight of many Filipino migrant women. Like Baby Jane Allas, many domestic workers succumb either to physical illness or mental disorders due to their subjection to maltreatment and inhumane working conditions. In January, a 39-year old domestic helper was executed in Saudi Arabia. Now, another Filipina waits for her fate after the Saudi Court of Appeals maintained her 2017 death sentence.
As one Filipina to the next gets queued to the gallows under the government’s labour export program, the dearth of opportunities in the Philippines continues to banish millions of Filipino women to the far ends of the earth; enduring even the most dangerous and demeaning jobs overseas employment could offer.
Under the US-Duterte regime, the misery of Filipino women has increased a thousand-fold. Every single report about domestic workers being sexually assaulted by their employers elicits our indignation but what we got right here is a president who tried to draw out comical reactions from his audience while recounting his account of molesting their household helper.
In an event hosted by DTI officials in January, President Duterte rationalized rape as a cultural practice and as a matter of “territory.” In the same speech, Duterte described OFW families as dysfunctional. He added that in the absence of the mother, it is the daughter that takes her place. Who would ever forget his order to shoot female rebels in the vagina since according to Duterte they are good for nothing without it? Likewise, Duterte assured soldiers last year that they can rape up to three women with impunity. No other president in Philippine history has ever derogated women more spitefully than President Rodrigo Duterte.
His misogynist remarks demonstrate his view and treatment of women as low caste citizens. Since violence against women comes in many forms, state violence has exacerbated under Duterte’s watch. The attack against press freedom as seen in the arrest of Rappler’s Maria Ressa, the Sagay 9 massacre which claimed the lives of 4 women and 2 minors, the intensifying persecution of activists and the social injustices being perpetrated against female workers in the country are just some of the countless attacks that Filipino women go through.
In the peasant sector, Duterte’s Rice Tariffication Law will drive more rice farmers to landlessness as the government opens the floodgates of cheap imported rice. This will force farmers to sell their lands to greedy property developers and landlords. Food insecurity along with the rising cost of living torments Filipino women who grapple with the ill effects of Duterte’s TRAIN Law.
Due to unjust labour practices like contractualization and the absence of a national minimum wage, many Filipino women are forced into modern-day slavery upon deployment overseas. As usual, the government does nothing to save our troubled workers and migrants from the entangling roots of forced migration.
The Duterte regime doesn’t spare a word or bullet in his ferocious attacks against peasant and working women who stand to assert their rights. He has turned the country into a massive blood basin. Yet as how it has been in the days of old, the recognition of women’s rights were not attained without heroic struggle.
Parallel to observing International Women’s Day to honour women of the working class and those from the peasant sector, it is likewise a day of protest to fight against the razing plagues of feudal oppression, bureaucrat-capitalist exploitation and imperialist aggression that not only subjugate millions of women here in the Philippines but billions of women around the world.
Today, Migrante International joins in solidarity with all women who have chosen the path of struggle for liberation and democracy. Filipino women migrants are bravely lifting their banners high with indefatigable allegiance and faith to the masses as we wage our battles against all forms of oppression and exploitation ravaging under the US-Duterte regime.
Fight the US-Duterte regime’s macho-Fascist reign of terror!
Rise for women’s dignity! Unite for real change!