Sunday, November 29, 2009

Women rights groups decry Maguindanao massacre

Women from various walks of life expressed their outrage over the gruesome death that befell their fellow women in what is now called by authorities as the Maguindanao Massacre.

And the death of at least 21 women who were among the more than 50 victims is yet another mark in the international struggle to end the violence against women.

Wednesday was the commemoration of the International Day to Eliminate Violence against Women, an annual tribute to the Mirabal sisters who were brutally killed by Dominican Republic dictator General Trujillo on November 25, 1960.

Mags Maglana, a Mindanao development worker, said the incident showed that the women victims were “victims twice over.”

“They suffered a brutal death. And one couldn't help but think that they were proxies in a political war led by powerful men and their clans. And yet they were courageous. They might not have had an inkling of the hell they were walking into but they must have known about the risks ... and yet they went in,” Maglana said.

Maglana said that the women killed in the massacre were no doubt victims but “they tried to do what they could to bring about change that they believed in.”

“And for that they should be honored. And we should make sure that they are done justice and that no more women will have to be sacrificed in the altars of warlordism and feudal governance,” she said.

Women rights advocates on Wednesday went to the streets of Davao to condemn the violent death of women in the massacre.

Nisa Opalla, Gabriela Women’s Party-Southern Mindanao spokesperson said: “that in times of political turmoil, dictatorship, and fascism, women are not spared of state violence, this is how desperate political elites rule.”

"The barbaric incident in Maguindanao is also an indication of the grave human rights landscape in the Philippines under the Arroyo government, where the old guns, goons and gold still rule," she added.

Nancy, a store attendant in downtown Davao, said she was both scared and angered when she heard the news that some of the victims of the carnage, which is linked to the Ampatuan family, were even sexually abused before they were killed.

The women victims included the wife of Buluan town vice mayor and gubernatorial aspirant Esmael Mangudadatu, his sisters Eden, the mayor of the Mangudadatu town, and Farina.

Also killed were lawyers Concepcion “Connie” Brizuela and Cynthia Oquendo.

Catherine Uba-Bermudez, a former Mindanao journalist who is now based in the United States, said it unnerved her to know that “these men are animals.”

“Kill, if you must, if this was commissioned by the quasi-god (in the form of Ampatuan) but rape? This is lowlier and downright barbaric than any form of jihad, fundamentalism, or ideology,” said Bermudez in her message sent to the INQUIRER.

“It just speaks how these people are animals ... I am disgusted by how invaluable these people look at humans, as if hearing them say "sige, katayin mo sila" (go ahead and slaughter them) to my face, like referring to bugs or rodents, needing extermination. Obviously, they don’t value lives. They make me throw up,” Bermudez added.

Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza said that the incident showed that women are the most “vulnerable in the mad scramble for power during elections.”

The Mindanao Commission on Women and Mothers for Peace also expressed its outrage over what it called “new low in bestiality perpetrated by men on civilians but most especially on women.”

“This latest incident by men, who are believed to belong to a private army, makes us shudder at what will happen in the days ahead if these criminals and their principals are not brought to justice,” the group said.

Eden Mangudadatu, they said, even actively participated in the many activities of the Mindanao Commission on Women. It is, they said, ironic that early this year Eden participated in discussions of our project, “Women Healing Communities: Preventing and Reducing Rido (clan feuds)."

“During the session, she shared her thoughts about rido and how women played an important role in settling cases of clan violence,” they said.

“The barbaric and brutal massacre in Maguindanao shows the total breakdown of security in parts of Mindanao where many women and their families live in dehumanizing poverty and violent conflict,” the group said.

“We call on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo—as President and as a woman—to do the right thing: disband and disarm the private armies, bring down the full force of the law on the perpetrators, and rid Maguindanao and other parts of Mindanao of the scourge of warlordism,” the group added.

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