KORONADAL City, July 27, 2011?Indigenous women leaders gave President Benigno Aquino III a failing grade for his failure to deliver on promises made during the presidential campaign period and his first state of the nation address (SONA).
At least 45 tribal women leaders representing 19 tribes and sub-tribes across the country gathered on July 23-24 at the Christ the King Retreat Center in Koronadal City to share with one another their thoughts and reflections regarding their life conditions under the PNoy administration.
Aquino’s high popularity among the people partly due to his pedigree and people’s disenchantment of the previous government because of allegations of corruption, also led to high expectations from those who supported him that fundamental changes would occur once he is in power.
But many people, including the IP women leaders expressed disappointment that one year into office, the Aquino administration appears to have no clear road map to guide its actions.
Judy A. Pasimio, an NGO leader and organizer of the tribal gathering said that being at the forefront of struggles they have always dreamt of positive changes in the country every time a new administration sits in office.
“In his speech in 2010, PNOY said ‘Ngayon, pwede na tayong mangarap.’ (We can now dream.) As women who are in the forefront of struggles, we have always kept our dreams. The more critical question is – do we have an ally in PNOY in moving closer to the fulfilment of our dreams?” Pasimio, who is also an officer of Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC-Ksk/Friends of the Earth-Phils.), asked.
The women leaders also expressed frustration on the government’s failure to address poverty and the fundamental issue of human rights.
Keynote speaker Beverly Longid of Katribu Partylist explained that “food on the table and other basic needs are among the main concerns of most indigenous women, and PNoy failed to address these basic problems one year after his assumption to power.”
She criticized PNoy’s 4P’s (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program), saying the program “perpetuate discrimination of indigenous women”, as well as “becoming another source of corruption among officials.”
T’boli leader Amihan Ambag echoed the same sentiment saying that PNoy “failed to stop the continuing increase of prices of goods, oil, rice and [their] other daily needs.”
The group lamented that they have yet to gain rightful ownership of their ancestral domain even as they noted that the government is not extending any help so they can develop their lands.
Aquino also failed to stop militarization in the country sides which resulted in various cases of human rights violations, the group said.
A ray of hope
But with the appointment of a new chair in the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) the women leaders expressed hope that some positive changes will happen in due time.
NCIP chair Bridgettte Hamada, is an Ifugao and has been in the vanguard of struggle for the protection of IP rights.
The Commission on Human Rights, which is headed by Etta Rosales, is also likely to “act on issues raised by indigenous communities, especially of women who are discriminated and threatened both as an indigenous people and as woman.”
The group also expressed the desire to get involved and make their voice heard in the current peace negotiations between the government and rebels.
“We hope that the peace talks will not just solve these political problems but also address the very issue of the lack of basic social services provided in far-flung areas. We reaffirmed in the sessions that basic needs such as food, education and health needs are not delivered in the poorest of the poor communities,” they said.
The National Gathering of Indigenous Peoples had the theme “IP women weaving desires together, forging collective strength towards solidarity and genuine changes.”
Proceedings of the two-day gathering will be put together into an IP women agenda and will be given to relevant agencies both at the national and local level. (CBCPNews)