AN APPEAL FOR SOLIDARITY AND SUPPORT
From Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Liza Largoza-Maza
Greetings of peace and freedom!
I write this letter so you may know the political persecution that my political party, the Gabriela Women’s Party, and I are subjected to right now under the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. I write to you to appeal as well for your solidarity and support for our struggle for genuine freedom and democracy in our country.
The Gabriela Women’s Party is the only women’s political party in the Philippines duly elected in the 2004 national and party list elections. I represent the Gabriela Women’s Party in the Philippine House of Representatives.
Through this representation, the Gabriela Women’s Party consistently and steadfastly carried out our mandate to raise women’s concerns in Congress. I am one of the principal authors of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Children Act (RA 9208), co-author of the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act (RA 9262), and sponsor of the Juvenile Justice bill that promotes restorative justice for children in conflict with the law. I also co-authored the measure to increase the minimum wage of workers and allowances of government employees and other pro-women legislations advancing specific concerns of women as enshrined in the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). My community projects, on the other hand address the needs and interest of women, children, youth and students.
Our advocacy for women and children’s concerns extends to our opposition to government measures that bring further impoverishment and heightened repression to the marginalized sectors. Thus, the Gabriela Women’s Party stood strongly against the Expanded Value Added Tax (EVAT), a lopsided national budget, and price increases of basic commodities. We opposed the policies of “no permit no rally”, warrantless arrests of political opposition, and the calibrated pre-emptive response as these curtail the rights to peaceful assembly and free expression. Our women’s party resisted the imposition of Executive Order 464 that virtually gagged Congress as heads of government agencies are not allowed by President Arroyo to attend Congressional investigations without her consent. Most importantly we dared question the legitimacy of President Arroyo who was subjected to impeachment complaint because she apparently cheated, lied and stole her way to the presidency.
On February 24, 2006, President Arroyo issued Presidential Proclamation 1017, which placed the entire country under a state of national emergency. Following such proclamation, a crackdown on progressive organizations and media and curtailment of civil rights ensued. People’s demonstrations were violently dispersed.
Because we challenged the policies and legitimacy of President Arroyo, we are now being subjected to political persecution by the Arroyo administration. The imminent threat to our freedom and security, forced me and my colleagues from other progressive partylists, Reps. Satur Ocampo, Teodoro Casino and Joel Virador of Bayan Muna and Rep. Rafael Mariano of Anak Pawis Party, to seek the protective custody of the House of Representatives. The House unanimously adopted Resolution 1169 granting us protective custody and recognizing our rights to due process and against warrantless arrests and inquests. Meanwhile, Rep. Crispin Beltran, 73 years old, of Anak Pawis Party List was illegally arrested by the police and is now in detention. Other leaders of peoples’ organizations are also being pursued. Charges of rebellion were leveled against us.
Even as PP 1017 was lifted, our movements remain restrained because of threats to our rights and lives. Despite this, we continue to assert our right to perform our functions as duly elected representatives of the marginalized sectors. On March 6, with the support of some members of the House and the Senate, I attended the Bicameral Conference on Juvenile Justice amid threats of imminent arrest without warrant.
My action earned the ire of the police. The Philippine National Police (PNP) in clear disregard of the House’s protective custody filed a motion on March 7 at the Department of Justice (DOJ) demanding that our custody be transferred from the House of Representatives to the PNP to which our lawyers filed an opposition.
In another attempt to harass us, DOJ changed the schedule and venue of our preliminary investigation from March 13 at 2p.m. to 10:00 a.m. on the same day that the investigation was to be held. We were informed of the changes ten minutes before the start of the investigation.
The harassment against me and my colleagues as well as crackdown and summary execution of leaders and members of progressive organizations continues. President Arroyo is now moving to have a gallery of the so-called enemies of the state posted everywhere. This is a clear violation of the presumption of innocence and due process guaranteed under our Constitution. The President, the PNP and the Secretary of Justice have already prejudged us without even waiting for the outcome of the preliminary investigation.
This is just the beginning of our ordeal. More difficulties will come our way. What gives me strength and inspiration at the moment is the knowledge that increasingly more and more women stand up with me against these grave violations of our civil, political, and human rights. Already on March 8, International Women’s Day, about 15,000 women marched on the business streets of Ayala, Makati, demanding an end to repression, tyranny, harassment and political persecution of Rep. Liza Largoza Maza and the Gabriela Women’s Party. Women from other countries are protesting against these blatant violations of civil and political rights as well.
It is my fervent hope that you will be a part of the campaign to firmly oppose the ongoing political persecution against us. I appeal for your support and solidarity to uphold our women’s rights to political participation and governance as well as protest against violations of civil and democratic rights of our people. Let us join hands in working for genuine freedom, democracy and just peace in the Philippines and the world.
My sincerest thanks for your solidarity and support.
Gabriela Women’s Party Representative to the 13th Congress
Philippine House of Representatives