The Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau (WLB) adds to the voices of many groups condemning the proclamation of Martial Law and suspension of writ of habeas corpus in the wake of the Marawi crisis.
We are appalled by yet another rape Joke made by President Rodrigo Duterte that in effect exonerates soldiers for raping women as part of military actions. The President’s obstinate and consistent sexist remarks are an affront to women, and exacerbates the already grave condition that women and girls are in, in times of armed conflict.
Martial law emboldens and allows abuse of power of the military. Let us not forget the atrocities under the Marcos dictatorship. Martial law is an assault to democracy and human rights, including women’s rights. We recall how women who opposed the dictatorial rule were sexually violated by the military.
We detest the proliferation of inaccurate and false accounts of the situation in Marawi made by government officials to create the illusion of security as justification for Martial law.
We reiterate the obligations of the government as provided in international human rights law and domestic legislations. The Magna Carta of Women Act of 2010 (RA 9710) obliges the government to protect women from all forms of gender-based violence, such as rape and other forms of sexual abuse, and all forms of violence in situations of armed conflict.
There must be an end to the culture of impunity that normalizes sexual violence in armed conflict situations. The government, as the primary duty-bearer, must be held accountable for acts of violence committed against women by military, non-military, state and non-state actors.
We call on everyone to remain vigilant. We must not be complacent and wait until the full reign of Martial law causes further harms, devastation, and human rights violations with impunity.
Let not history repeat itself. We call on the President to lift the Martial law now.
Jelen C. Paclarin, Executive Director, Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau, Quezon City