“Kung saan po may mga militar, merong terorismo.”
Moro leader Diamond Kalaw said this as she shared the current condition of civilians in her hometown Marawi. “Kahit saan ‘yang lugar, kapag may mga military, meron daw terorista at meron daw terorismo. Pero kung walang militar, walang terorismo na nagaganap,” she added.
Kalaw was among the speakers in the forum ‘Filipino Women’s Stake in the Time of Martial law: Resisting Militarism, Asserting Sovereignty’. Organized by non-government group Center for Women’s Resources (CWR), the forum discussed the effects of militarism on women and children.
In the forum, the Moro leader reported that the number of casualties have reached over 700 civilians. “Hindi nababalita pero ang talagang bilang ng namatay doon ay umabot na nang lampas 700,” she said. “Kinukuha agad yung bangkay ng mga anak o kababayan nila na Maranao at nililibing kaagad. Kasi po, hindi pwede na yung namatay ay papatagalin pa kinabukasan.”
Kalaw narrated the hardship that families are facing in evacuation centers. “Nagkakaroon na ng mga sakit – diarrhea, nagsusuka… Yung mga kalapit na ospital ay talagang puno na. Hanggang ngayon ay hindi sila naaabutan ng tulong,” she said.
Manobo leader Euphemia Callumat agreed with the views of her fellow Mindanaoan. “Nararanasan din namin kung ano yung paghihirap ng ating kapatid na Muslim doon sa evacuation center. Naghihirap sa pagkain… Napakasakit isipin na yung nanay na katulad nating babae ay nahihirapan din kung saan siya kukuha ng pagkain na wala pang suporta,” Callumat explained.
She furthered that the rising militarism in Mindanao has been worsened by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao in May after the military launched its operations against the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups in Marawi City.
“Itong martial law na ito ay talagang pinaiigting yung militarization doon sa aming komunidad… Noong naideklara ang martial law, lalo kaming nangangamba dahil hindi pa nga naideklara yung martial law ay nararanasan na namin yung matinding militarization,” said Callumat.
War exists ‘not just in Mindanao’
CWR shared the results of their research on militarism and women in the forum. Cham Perez, CWR’s research program coordinator, said that war is happening everywhere in the country, and not just in Mindanao. “This is because the culture of militarism seeps into the framework of governance. As militarism prevails, violence continue that eventually lead to a humanitarian crisis like in Marawi City,” she said.
Amid this culture of militarism, Perez added, women and children bear the brunt of massive military operations. She enumerated the effects of militarism on women and children, some of which are the worsening of economic insecurity, physical harm, hunger and malnutrition, reproductive health risks, spread of diseases, stress, trauma, burdened social roles, sexual abuse, lack of social services, and violation of civil and political rights.
She explained that the culture of militarism instills a culture of resistance and solidarity among women. “Habang mayroong culture of militarism, meron tayong culture of resistance. At maliban sa resistance, may ipinapakita ang kababaihan na solidarity. Kaya, halimbawa, tayo dito sa Maynila ay nagpapakita ng solidarity sa mga kababaihan at batang biktima ng militarism kahit na hindi tayo nakakaranas ng aerial bombardment,” Perez said.
In fighting the rising militarism, Gabriela Women’s Partylist representative Emmi de Jesus said that their organization is looking forward to the peace talks that could possibly address the roots of insurgency and armed conflict.
But De Jesus stressed the importance of organizations pressing for peace and fundamental reforms. “Yung pagbabago na hinahangad ng mga Pilipino, kailangan talaga niyan matibay na organisasyon. And women’s organizations and women’s voices can really add up to that strength of resistance,” the lawmaker said.
Report by Elinor Bola and Raye Peralta