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Features

Tuesday, 15 February 2000
The Filipina under Estrada

`A nightmare of poverty,
injustice, degradation’

By Gina Mission

 
The one thing her teachers told her that left the most lasting impression on Evelyn Carias was that her parents were poor because they were lazy.

...But Evelyn knew better. Poverty, she told her teachers, is not necessarily due to laziness. Her parents, she said, worked even at night, defying sleep as if darkness and daylight were the same, to augment whatever little money they earned as vendors during the day. Still, they could hardly make both ends met.

...That Evelyn is a woman didn't help ease her gloomy feeling about conditions in the country, especially of poor Filipinos like her family. Being a Muslim didn’t help matters, either. Muslim customs, she said, put women at a disadvantaged position in society.

...As a Muslim woman aware of her human rights, she said she often feels she is in a "living hell." And it is getting worse.

...Evelyn is aware that millions of Filipinos, male and female, are suffering under an array of problems—poverty, violence, injustice, unequal opportunities, to name only a few. But she is also painfully aware that women are especially vulnerable.

...Carias was among those who aired their views at a recent gathering of women's groups from all over the country which launched the Estrada Resign as President, or "Erap", campaign. The event brought together women of diverse backgrounds, who in turn brought up their varied problems and concerns, all of which, they believe, add up to one conclusion: That President Estrada, who has not done much to improve the plight of Filipino women and their families, must resign.

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Carias, Mananzan and Masa: Erap must go

..."There is so much violence in our place," Carias told the gathering of women. "The SPCD failed to address the Moro problem.’’

...Evelyn added, "Before the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD), it was only a Moro-Christian conflict. Now it's a Moro-to-Christian-to-Moro battle."

...Liza Maza, secretary general of the militant women’s group Gabriela, talked about the plight of women in particular, and about the conditions of Filipinos in general, under the present dispensation.

..."We have not seen, not once under the Estrada regime, any signs of a better future," she said. "Estrada's adamant refusal to seriously take into account the people's demands, the implementation of anti-people policies and the gradual implementation of martial law--all of these make the nightmare of poverty, injustice, and degradation unbearable for women.:

"He should resign," she intoned.

...Sr. Mary John Mananzan, OSB, president of St. Scholastica’s College and chair of Gabriela, said that under the Estrada administration, basic health care, education, and housing, among other things, remain far beyond the reach of the Filipino.

Inequity in the workplace

...Records of the National Statistics Office show that 11 million out of the 12.4 million women in the labor force are employed. There are indications, however, that the actual number of women of working age today is higher. As of October 1999, about 12.2 million women aged 15 and above still had to be included in the labor force.

...Those who work at home and whose labor is terribly undervalued, if valued at all, represent a substantial portion of this labor force.

...Rosalinda Ofreneo, associate professor at the University of the Philippines, disclosed that there were more than six million home or family workers last year--six times more than the 1981 figure. Of the 1999 figure, 69 per cent or 4.14 million are women.

...The gap in pay between male and female home workers is just as wide as in some other sectors of the labor force.

...Filipino women home workers earn only 39 centavos for every P1 earned by men. Many women in this sector even go unpaid. There are twice as many unpaid female family workers as males, and they provide 31 to 62 hours of unpaid labor per week compared to 3 to 15 hours for men.

Overseas workers

...Filipinas who work abroad may be earning much more than they would have if they stayed at home, but they have their own share of problems, and govenrment hasn’t been of much help.

...Government statistics show that of the 2,000 or so Filipinos who leave the country daily to work abroad, 60 per cent are women.

...While women contributed substantially to the $5.4 billion that overseas Filipinos sent home from January to September 1999, Mananzan said most of them are left to fend for themselves whenever they encounter problems in foreign lands.

...For example, the more than 100,000 Filipino maids working in Hongkong are affected by the Hong Kong-government’s proposed HK$200 fee for renewal of contracts, the 5 per cent government-proposed cut on wages, the 20 per cent tax imposed by the HK government, and the policy giving employers the right to dismiss maids who are pregnant.

...Furtrhermore, Filipion women workers abroad are especially vulnerable to human rights abuses, as shown by Gabriela:

  • Melinda Zacarias Dass, in Singapore, was arrested for killing her two sons reportedly as a result of temporary insanity due to maltreatment by her husband.
  • Jovelyn Delima Brillen, in Brussels, was arrested for alleged involvement in the abuse of her daughter but was later cleared.
  • Sarah Jane Dematera was held responsible for the killing of her lady employers in Saudi Arabia.
  • Dizajen Abobo Mabaylan, 23, was arrested for "falsely" accusing her employer of assault in Singapore.
  • Glenda Lorio, 31, was murdered allegedly by her employer in Hong Kong.
  • Melanie Bautista Udalo and Marichu Quimson, both 24, were found dead on January 4 in Japan.
  • Esperanza Constantino was found stabbed to death on June 6 in Hong Kong.

Health and social services

...Regarding health and social services, Mananzan said only 3 per cent of the annual government budget is allocated for health, which is below the 5 per cent required by the World Health Organization of member countries. The amounts that eventually go to different sectors, such as women and children, are thus correspondingly small.

...Of the 27 million malnourished Filipinos, the majority are women and children.

...Health services are not easily accessible to women, and to most Filipinos, for that matter. Only one-third of the total number of hospitals in the country are public. Of the country's 41,000 barangays, only about 10,000 have barangay health stations.

Housing shortage and demolitions

...Women are among those who suffer most from the severe housing shortage. At present, the government has a housing backlog of 4.7 million units.

...Gabriela reported that 72,756 urban poor residents were deprived of their homes in 1999 through demolitions. They represented 12,126 displaced families, more than the two-year figure of 8,067 under the past administration. In the first quarter of 1999 alone, a total of 2,700 houses were demolished in Metro Manila.

...Early in 1999, Gabriela-Panay protested the demolition of urban poor dwellings in Iloilo City, which affected 222 families.

...Dabu-Dabu, an urban poor community inside the Cultural Center of the Philippines, was violently dispersed by teams from the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Marines, resulting in the deaths of three children and an elderly woman.

Teachers as breadwinners

...In June 1999, some 288 private colleges and universities nationwide imposed tuition fee increases, some by as much as 200 per cent.

...When schools opened last June, there was a shortage of 26,000 classrooms, 100 million textbooks and 15,000 teachers. The current ratio between textbook and student is 1:7 for elementary and 1:8 for high school. The ratio between teacher and student is as high as 1:80.

...The average monthly take-home pay for teachers is only P6,000. According to Gabriela, 90 per cent of the half a million teachers in the country are teaching in public schools, and most of these are women who are the breadwinners of their families.

Violence against women

...Gabriela recorded 3,031 rape cases in 1998 and more than 1,500 cases in the first six months of 1999.

...The International Labor Organization has reported that some 100,000 to 600,000 Filipino women engaged in prostitution account for 2 to 14 per cent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP). Yet, the rights of prostitutes are often flagrantly violated.

...Gabriela Cebu recorded an increase in the number of "commercial sex workers" (CSWs) in Cebu from 2,554 registered CSWs in 1991 to 2,800 in 1996; 3,024 in 1998; and 3,984 in 1999.

...Evelyn Carias reported that out of the more than 6,000 prostitutes in Davao City, three per cent are Muslim women, who may have migrated from other places. Among Muslims, Carias pointed out, prostitution is punishable by death. So some women flee their home communities before they are found out.

Armed conflict

...Atel Hijos of Gabriela Northern Mindanao reported that Oplan Makabayan, Estrada's anti-revolutionary campaign, has resulted in cases of salvaging, torture, massacre, summary execution, hamletting, forced evacuations, food blockades, involuntary disappearances, harassment, and divestment of properties, especially in the mountains of Agusan del Sur. Invariably, women have been affected by these military operations.

...Carias said that, in the Muslim areas, it is normal to see President Estrada launch an "underground militarization" even while peace talks are going on between government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

...So, she said, people in these areas are prepared for the worst. And like the other women at the "Erap" launch, Carias’ group is "willing to suffer to make a stand."

..."It is a crisis-stricken nation that calls for Estrada's resignation," Sr. Mary John Mananzan declared. "Nineteen months of Estrada's leadership have seen the economic and political climate's regression into the dark ages. For women, Estrada's immediate resignation would pave the way toward the end of an unbearable nightmare of poverty, injustice and degradation."


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