#EveryWoman: A call to protect human rights and uphold democratic principles


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On the 1st Buhay at Babae forum

Commission on Human Rights, Diliman, Quezon City

October 5, 2016

Maraming maraming salamat po. Take your seats.

Thank you so much, my favorite and best professor, my  La Salle days in History Political Science. She was indeed my best professor, Professor Soc Reyes. Sa lahat po ng mga organizers ng event na ito, I understand this is the first of the series of event dubbed as “Buhay at Babae,” fighting or upholding for human rights, women’s rights, and democracy.

Hindi ko na po iisa-isahin ang mga nandito, baka meron po akong ma-miss. But of course special mention, former Chair Etta Rosales, beacon also of Human Rights and Commissioner Karen. I always say this: She was my mentor. Noong baguhan pa lang ako, bagita pa lang ako sa usapin ng karapatang pantao when I joined CHR in 2008. Yes, I am back home and yet I feel great to be back here—my original home, the Commission on Human Rights. Marami po kayong nandito, sa inyo pong lahat, again I will not mention na lang isa-isa, baka mayroon po akong ma-miss.

Sa panahon kung kelan lantaran akong pinagtutulungan at tila ba kinukuyog ng mga lalaking kapwa ko nagtatrabaho sa gobyerno, kanino pa nga ba ako kukuha ng lakas kundi sa mga kapwa ko babae? I am still here. Huwag po kayong mag-alala. Siguro yung iba siguro nagtataka: Bakit nandiyan pa siya? Bakit nakatayo pa siya? Bakit buhay pa siya? Nandito pa po ako, at habang nakatayo ako, lalaban po ako.

Sa darating na linggo ay ang ika-isandaang (100) araw sa puwesto si Pangulong Duterte. Pero ngayon pa lang, umabot na sa 3,675 ang napatay. 1,381 dito ang napaslang sa operasyon ng pulis; habang nakakaalarmang 2,294 ang napatay na hindi tukoy ang salarin o maituturing na kagagawan ng mga so-called vigilante.

Mahigit 30 tao na patay kada araw and the numbers are growing by the day! Karamihan po dito, kung hindi man lahat sila, ay pawang mahihirap, at pawang  walang boses sa lipunan.

Naalala ko rito ang isang sulat sa akin ng isang supporter, hindi ko po siya kilala personally pero ang ganda po ng sulat niya sa akin, ang pangalan po niya, Ginoong Archimedes S. Marquez. Sabi niya po:

“If the pusher lives in a Tondo shanty on a river of garbage, he dies violently in an encounter with the police. If the dealer conducts pot session in a condo unit, where illegal drugs worth millions are found, he gets to live, surrounded by the media. Big time drug lords have the hospital or the PNP White House to take refuge in. Small time pushers have only cemeteries to await them after their ignominious death.”  [This is from] a plain citizen.

Kamangha-mangha po ang mga nagaganap sa ating lipunan ngayon.

Buhay at Babae” ang tema po natin ngayon. Angkop na angkop sa mga nangyayari ngayon. Allow me please to dwell largely on the issue of woman. Isyu ng babae. Women’s rights, women’s dignity.

As many of you may know, over the last eight (8) years, I have been to scores of events like this: human rights consciousness events that further the advocacy for women’s rights through awareness of women’s issues. I have delivered dozens of speeches before hundreds, if not thousands, of audience members about the same or similar issues over the course of that same time period.

While each event is unique in its own way, which made it easier to tailor the message appropriately and accordingly, the overall theme was mostly the same: the celebration of progress and achievements of the women’s rights movements, the acknowledgement of challenges that remain, thoughts on how to address and overcome those remaining challenges, acknowledging the growing awareness and participation of men in addressing women’s issues yet calling for much more in the future, and basically speaking from my own experiences as a public servant, a lawyer, a daughter, a mother, a sister and, in general, as a woman.

         But this year, this event we are holding at this very moment, coming off of my experiences these last few month, iba po ito.

Ibang-iba ito.

Aaminin ko, na sa dinami-rami ng mga pinagdaan ko bilang isang babae – bilang anak, kapatid, asawa, ina, separada, abogada, Chairperson ng Commission on Human Rights, Kalihim ng Kagawaran ng Katarungan, tagapagtanggol ng mga nabiktima ng karahasan at ng paglabag sa kanilang mga karapatan, lalo na ng kanilang karapatang pantao – akala ko ay maalam at beterano na ako pagdating sa buhay, lalo na sa tema ng buhay babae.

Life has a funny way of teaching you lessons in the least expected and, yes, quite painful and traumatic ways.  Just when you think that, at a particular age, although I am not that old yet, and with all these life and professional experiences, there are no longer any “big” life lessons left to be learned, life happens, things happen, and prove you wrong.

Pinaramdam sa akin ng kapalaran na may isang aspeto ng pagkababae na hindi ko pa pala lubos na nararanasan: ang maging biktima.

A victim – not in the general sense of being a woman who has encountered the sort of sexism that pervades the daily life that women, unfortunately, have come to expect as part of their daily routine – but as a victim of direct, targeted, unrelenting, vicious, malicious and intentionally destructive attacks virtually from all directions, both from known and unknown assailants.

Admittedly, as a beloved daughter who has had an upbringing that was more comfortable than most have had the fortune to experience, and as a student and, later, as a professional whose aptitude and capacity for academics and for the acquisition of skills has made life quite fulfilling despite being very challenging and demanding, I realize that I lived a relatively sheltered life. I have been living in a bubble without even realizing it. A self-aware bubble to some extent, to be sure, because I knew, at some level that there are real problems still pervading our society and real victims surviving through them.  But it is nonetheless a bubble that not even close exposure to victims as an advocate can truly break.

There are things that you think you can learn vicariously, but at some point, you will realize, as I have, that nothing adequately prepares you for the shock, the pain, the trauma, the bouts of helplessness, the moments of doubt and, through it all, the vague feeling of unreality, of being trapped in a surrealistic nightmare – the very absurdity of which makes it difficult to comprehend, much more fight to escape and wake up from – that come with becoming a victim.

Noon po, kapag nasa harapan ko ang nabiktima, umaandar agad ang utak ko: ano ang nangyari, bakit nangyari, ano ang pwede gawin para mahinto nang tuluyan ang pang-aabuso, ano ang dapat pang mangyari at gawin para huwag nang maulit ang pang-aabuso o madagdagan pa ang mabibiktima, sino ang dapat managot, etcetera, etcetera.  Ako mismo, mabilis pong kumilos. Umaandar kaagad ang tapang ko. Pag natuon ko na ang karapat-dapat gawin, aksyon agad. That’s what I would normally do.  That’s who I “normally” am.  An action woman.

But when I was on the receiving end of a relentless slew of blow after blow, after blow of unmitigatedly unfair, underhanded and out-of-bounds lies and attacks against my humanity and womanhood, I met a part of myself that, up to that point, I did not know existed.  Iyong parte ng pagkatao ko na napapainda sa mga suntok ng kalaban. Iyong parte na napapahinto at napapatahimik paminsan-minsan, lalo na kapag wala sa mata ng publiko, when I would be in the privacy of my room at night only with my favorite dog, Koko. Iyong parte ng pagkatao ko na, para makaalpas sa pinakamasasakit na dagok, ay kinailangang maging manhid at tuod pansamantala. Opo, maging manhid, pansamantala.

It’s definitely a darker side of me.  The woman who has had sleepless nights, the woman who sat and contemplated what had she done to deserve such treatment. On worse days, the woman who began to believe that maybe, just maybe, this is punishment for daring, not just to be human, but to be a woman.  The woman who was driven to such frustration that she was forced, against her will, to act and speak in public without the filter of “the professional”. This is like what you saw the other night when I was ganged up in that hearing by men.

But she is definitely a part of me.

And I am privileged, I must tell you, to have met her.

For she is also the survivor in me.  The one who, after those dark moments, somehow found another reserve of strength to tap from in order to fight and counter the submission hold she found herself momentarily trapped in.  Kumbaga sa martial arts, she is the Ultimate Fighting Champion in me because she’s more than just a one-trick pony.

For she is also the side of me who found the capacity, against all odds, to find forgiveness for those who were forced to tell lies against her and betray her. Hindi ko na naman po alam kung sino-sino na naman ang ipapaharap bukas sa House inquiry na yan na maglalantaran na magsisinungaling. For she understood what it felt like to be helpless, to be held against her will.  To be victimized.

For she is the side of me that accepted that she is, after all, a woman, and that is nothing to ask anyone’s forgiveness for.  She can be vulnerable, at times frail, at times longing for love, human contact, and human expression. Yet and precisely by accepting those side of her, she, at all times and no matter what, will never be any less of a person.  No less of worth to any man or any other woman.

She is the side of me that realized that there is no need to be ashamed or be silent about the parts of her that make her a woman. But, also and perhaps more importantly, the one who realized that there is no need to break that silence just to satisfy others’ voyeuristic desires.

There was a post on social media that really bothered me.

(Reads the text of the said social media post)

“Bobo talaga ang mga dilaw. Pare-parehas sila mag-isip.  Just because Duterte admitted in public he killed 1,700 does not mean he meant it.  Ako ba pag sinabi ko na nang rape ako ng 1,700 women to boost my masculinity in public means I actually raped 1,700 women? Bobo lang.

So marami po pala tayong bobo dito.

Amazing. Knee-jerk reaction is to be upset about the suggestion that the violation of one woman, let alone the hypothetical 1,700 women, that is hypothetical for the rape but I do not think it is hypothetical for the killings, is a means to boost a person’s masculinity. Even more upset to think that there are actually living, breathing organisms, occupying space both in the physical world and in cyberspace, who actually think that this is acceptable reasoning, to say nothing of those who pressed the “like” button. Sana walang nagla-like sa inyo na mga ganyan na mga kagaguhan.

Knee-jerk reaction is to scream, at the top of my lungs, that women are not instruments of any other person’s sense of completion.  We are not objects.  We are not means to achieving other people’s satisfaction.

Hindi tayo pag-aari na gagamitin para himasin ang pagkalalaki ng mga taong kulang sa pag-iisip, kulang sa pagkalalaki at kulang sa pagiging tao.

And there are plenty of those.  I just never realized that, aside from one flaming misogynist, sitting in the highest echelon of power, who thinks rape jokes are actually funny let alone worthy of a President, I would also be working so closely with some of them. I have had to sit there and roll my eyes to the ceiling as “unparliamentary” innuendos about the Visayan term “libog” and the surname of a lawyer for a witness being “Malaki” were made in the middle of a serious matter in order to satisfy their phallic obsession or, perhaps more accurately, insecurities.

But I realized that that’s how they get to us.

We are lulled by humor.

Women’s issues are trivialized by jokes.

Makinig kayo (sa video).


Transcript of Duterte’s rape joke, and statements against De Lima:

“Kasi ni-rape? Oo, isa rin yun. Pero napakaganda. Dapat ang mayor ang nauna. Sayang.

“Hindi ka na nahiya sa sarili mo. Any other woman would have slashed her throat.”

“Hoy, De Lima! Makinig ka. Putang ina ka.


That’s our President.

By the mentality that it’s okay to make jokes about them, and we are being “overly sensitive” or “KJ” by not finding them appropriate.

Kaya siguro ang ilan sa atin, without even realizing it, laugh along or, at least, huff out an amused breath or perhaps smile a little to indicate we have a sense of humor.

This is not about having a sense of humor, but about having sensitivity towards real issues affecting women. By going along, by laughing along, by keeping silent, or allowing ourselves to be bullied into silence, we are unconsciously being groomed to laugh at abuse and, in so laughing, becoming abusers ourselves.

Pilit nila tayong ipinipinta sa kulay nila. Pilit tayong ibinababa sa lebel nila.  But we don’t have to let it happen.

In standing up against comments likes these delivered at inappropriate settings and fora, I commend some of our journalists, both men and women, for calling out the blatant hypocrisy and misogyny that underpin these comments.

May iba naman na mas matinik.

Walang mailabas na credible evidence against me so they consciously use the old “sex, drugs and violence” approach to shield their hypocrisy and incompetence.

Meron pa nga diyan, tagapagtanggol kuno ng mga kababaihan, lalo ng mga tinaguriang “Comfort women” pero iyon, nagsusulong na ipa-forensic analysis kuno yung fake sex video na pilit nilang idinuduldol sa harap ng taumbayan. To what end?

Malupit kung isipin na ang pagtatanggol pala sa mga high profilecases involving women’s issues ay balatkayo lamang pala para mahalal sa posisyon. Once again, women are used for a man’s ambitions.

But the issue is deeper.

The really disturbing part is that there are people in power who are truly, honestly and, perhaps even unapologetically out-of-touch. 

It has been reported that one lawmaker – a lawmaker– after once again satisfying his obsession with the sex video, this time by actually watching it and commenting “the partner was good”, was asked by a fellow young female reporter whether showing the sex video would be “a form of slut shaming” and “phallic domination”,  that was the question then of that female reporter. The reaction in the room, reportedly, was silence, followed by this lawmaker – a lawmaker – asking “Meron bang ganun, referring to the slut shaming?”[1]

Yes, Representative Danilo Suarez, to answer your question, there is such a thing.

And to help you and your esteemed colleagues even further towards the path of enlightenment, Section 9(c) of the Magna Carta of Women, which I am sure you have heard of, you being a lawmaker and all, states that “All government personnel involved in the protection and defense of women against gender-based violence shall undergo a mandatory training on human rights and gender sensitivity pursuant to this Act.” And since you, as a lawmaker – a lawmaker – presumably swore to protect the rights of women, may I kindly suggest that you and your wise colleagues all undergo such training.

Just a thought.  Maybe, in your wisdom, you’ll actually think about it so that, next time, when a young reporter asks you about slut-shaming, you wouldn’t be caught with your pants down again, so-to-speak.

So what is slut-shaming?  To me, it is simple.  It is making us, women, ashamed of an essential part of our being: our sexuality.

Not because only women have or experience it – if all the phallic jokes and fascination with the sexual act and footage thereof is any indication – but because well, apparently because we are women and, apparently, we have no right to own and enjoy our sexuality.

Men can boast about all the women they’ve bedded and conquered. But it’s a mortal sin if a woman even dares to embrace her sexuality.

A single woman having a physical relationship with a man?  She’s a slut!  Crucify her.  Oh no, no, wait, that’s a man’s punishment.  Stone her to death! But he, oh, he, he’s good. He’s a stud! Is there a vacant government post that we can elevate by his election or appointment?  Because obviously that’s a born leader right there.

There’s also a socio-economic divide, if you will notice.  Women who have means or are favorably situated can get an annulment or divorce from abusive or otherwise incompatible partners. They can shed the stigma of being so-called “adulterers” or unfaithful to an extent, though not completely. But heaven forbid should a woman leave an abusive husband, or be abandoned by her husband, or otherwise separate from her husband, without any means to obtain a legal or church annulment, and yet dare to try to find happiness in another relationship.  She will be labeled, she will be judged, she will be maligned, she will be vilified, she will be measured as being “less”, whatever that means, no matter the circumstances.

As for men, in some people’s eyes, they need not even bother with the legalities or formalities, and they would still be revered for their so-called “virility”.

Apparently, we are good enough for pleasuring our partners, giving birth to our children, taking care of them, but heaven forbid we actually dare to own our sexuality, to find pleasure in human relationships and contact.

If we do: we are women of the world! We are immoral! We should all go and hang ourselves. Sabi po niya yun.


You don’t own us.

If mothers have to go through the pain of birthing us into this world, the least – the absolute very least we can do – is to make it none of our business whether she enjoyed the process of conception.

It is no one’s business but a woman’s and, to some extent, her partner’s.  But ultimately, hers.

Contemplating the social media post I mentioned before, yung pinakita ko po kanina, I realized something: this person, the person who posted that might not be stupid in fact.

The blatant crassness might be hinting, not so much at appalling sincerity, but hopefully sarcasm.

It’s easier on Reddit than Facebook, for example, because commenters there appear to use the “sarcasm button” more often, whereas this post is vague.  It’s perfectly phrased to garner as many reactions as possible from all sides.  You can “like” it if you actually agree.  You can get “angry” if you don’t.  And you can “laugh” at it if you actually manage to discern the irony and the sarcasm.

Because just as our victimizers have learned the craft of weaponizing humor, so did our supporters.

Those who would otherwise be too afraid of getting trolled, bullied, or worse, if they dare stand up for women and women’s issues, as exemplified and amplified in this surreal Quagmire I find myself facing these days, are fighting back using humor.

It just goes to show that even the defenders need defending.

We need to stand up for others.

We need to stand up for ourselves.

We need to stand up for each other.

What pains me most is seeing women defending this kind of behavior.  Perhaps that’s one of the greatest offenses against our cause: that women are turned against each other.

It is perhaps second only to the offense of polluting the minds of the future generation, of passing on a legacy of misogyny, of abusive behavior towards women, of making girls feel lesser in worth than boys, of giving them less freedom and less ownership over their body, their life and their future, of taking away from boys the chance to develop a sense of accountability for their actions that would make them better persons, sons, brothers, partners, husbands and fathers. All of these corrupt our children long before they even have the chance to make their own decisions and choices, and robs them of the opportunity to fulfill their potential of evolving into the best human beings they can be.

But for each other and for our children, we have to stand up, throw caution to the wind, and be nothing more, and nothing less than women.

Babae ako. Hindi ako nahihiya sa aking pagkababae.  Wala akong dapat ikahiya sa aking pagkababae. 

I don’t deserve to be abused.  And when I am abused, it is not because I am at fault, not because I was asking for it, not because I deserved it.  But because my abusers aren’t intelligent enough to recognize my value, to appreciate me, and respect me.

That is the lesson I learned from the Leila I have had the pain and the pleasure to get to know these past few months.

I thank her for the lessons.  I thank her for being strong.  For being who she is, for embracing who she is, her weaknesses and her humanity.  All of these have made be stronger and, whether I wanted it or not, allowed me a greater affinity with my fellow victims.  No, not victims, fellow survivors, who, at the end of our trials, may not be the exact same persons we were before, but will nonetheless be a better person for all our experiences and triumphs over our trials.

No, diamonds are not a girl’s best friend.

That’s a lie concocted by society to dominate a woman by making her feel like she’s only as valuable as a material possession.

No, if there is any way that a diamond can compare to a woman, it is in its strength. A woman is resilient, a woman is unbreakable. But unlike a woman, a diamond can’t bend, it isn’t malleable.  A woman, even when she’s weak, she is strong; even when she bends, she remains whole; in the face of different challenges, she can adapt and find ways to survive and triumph.

That’s the foe that my detractors and my so-called enemies face.  Let them tremble where they stand.

Maraming maraming salamat po.

[1] http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/820051/even-duterte-friendly-house-minority-opposes-showing-of-de-lima-video#ixzz4MA6ujV93

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