Members of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women – Asia Pacific (CATW-AP) remain vigilant as a second and final hearing of the rape case of the 22-year-old Filipina is set on Nov. 29 at 2 PM. Women from the survivors’ groups Buklod in Olongapo City, Bagong Kamalayan and Bukal, supported by the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) and Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), gather today in front of the City Hall of Justice and called for the immediate resolution of the case for trial. The women wore vests as a symbol of protection from violence against women. The vests bore slogans “Gahasa sa Pinay, Gahasa sa Pinas!”
“We hope that our calls to stop violence and abrogate the VFA will resonate among our brothers and sisters throughout the country as this action also marks the 16-day campaign against violence against women,” says Jean Enriquez, Deputy Director of CATW-AP). The campaign is being conducted worldwide, beginning on November 25th, the day when the Mirabel sisters, three political activists in Dominican Republic were assassinated, and culminating on Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day.
“The rape case is but one of many criminal offenses by US servicemen in our country. We also hope to charge them soon with the anti-trafficking law, which penalizes the buying of trafficked persons,” says Alma Bulawan, President of Buklod ng Kababaihan, a group of survivors of trafficking and prostitution in Olongapo. The number of prostituted women in Olongapo grew when the Visiting Forces Agreement entered into force in 1999.
Minda Pascual, President of Bagong Kamalayan, added that “Whereas before, the American servicemen will go to the bars, now upon orders, pimps deliver the women to the ships docked on our shores.” The groups are documenting cases of violations by American soldiers.
The groups also deplored the ongoing war in Sulu, where American soldiers are reportedly seen involved in clashes. The military operations have displaced women and children. “The presence of American soldiers spell not only war, but also sexual exploitation of our women and children. Our documentation of cases has shown that the American soldiers frequent massage parlors in Zamboanga City,” stated Enriquez.
The labor groups APL and PM joined the women survivors in calling for immediate filing of charges in court and punishment of the accused. In upcoming mass actions on Nov. 30, both are condemning the Arroyo government for selling out the case to the Americans. The groups also carried placards containing slogans “Gonzales at Arroyo, Alis Diyan! VFA, Alis Diyan!