Women’s group Gabriela staged a demonstration at the Commission on Human Rights office in Manila to dramatize calls for the release of arrested women activists.
The group said that it is “deeply heart-rending and chilling to discover the illegal arrests of women” in recent weeks.
Gabriela cited the arrests of Adora Faye de Vera, Atheliana “Atel” Hijos, and Marites Pielago, who were described as “long-time advocates and women’s rights defenders.”
The group said that the women’s “tireless dedication to advancing women’s rights in the country is precisely the reason women advocates are hounded with intensifying crackdowns.”
De Vera is an activist who became a victim of gang rape and torture in the hands of the military when she was imprisoned during the martial law years.
She was arrested on August 24 over charges of multiple murders and frustrated murder with the use of explosives, particularly land mines. She is also facing rebellion charges in a separate case.
Hijos, 76, who was arrested on August 30, has been one of the pillars of Gabriela and the women’s movement in the Philippines.
She was secretary-general for the women’s group in the Caraga region when she was arrested. Authorities said she is facing charges of murder, kidnapping, and serious illegal detention.
Pielago, 63, is founding member of Bicolana Gabriela and its chairperson from 2004 to 2017. She was the fourth nominee of Bayan Muna partylist in 2019.
She was arrested in July while confined in a hospital in Naga City, Camarines Sur province, for charges of murder and frustrated murder.
In its statement, Gabriela said the arrests and harassments of women “show the cowardice of the state armed forces …. Typical image of an abuser.”
The group said that it has never faltered in doing campaigns concerning the Filipino people, “even if we draw the ire of people in power.”
“Thus, we tirelessly call for quality services. We oppose contractualization, demolition, high prices, illegal logging, and mining. We condemn and expose cases of sexual abuses and other forms of violence against women, especially those committed by men in uniform …. For these reasons, women who stand up are silenced,” said the group.
“We need to stand up against the harrowing culture of state-sponsored violence against women who dare speak truth to power,” added the women.
“Enough is enough. Every single woman intimidated into silence, every woman vilified with false, trumped-up charges, every woman abducted and illegally detained, all for standing up for her values, must be immediately freed,” read the Gabriela statement.