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FIGHT RISING AUTHORITARIANISM, STRUGGLE FOR A NEW AND BETTER DEMOCRACY

Magandang umaga sa ating lahat!

I would like to thank the organizers of this event for inviting me here. I was asked to present the state of women and health under President Rodrigo Duterte. I would like to start by saying that despite all the difficulties and challenges, despite the political persecution and hostility, I am proud to say that it is the minority Senators who work hardest in the Senate. In this regard, I am happy to tell all of you that in the span of just one year, yours truly, and with the help of my fellow Senators who are here right now, have passed three very important bills on third and final reading: 1) The Revitalized Anti-Hospital Deposit Law, which will protect patients from abusive hospitals, 2) the Expanded Maternity Leave Bill, which will provide women workers 120 days of paid maternity leave and 3) the Mental Health Act, which aims to provide comprehensive health services to all people with mental health needs. This is inconstestable proof that despite not being part of the majority, we have not lost sight of our duty to pursue measures that matter to people's lives in very real and specific terms. Mga kasama at kaibigan, tagumpay natin ang lahat ng ito!

However, among these victories is the shadow of death, violence, impunity, sexism and misogyny. For this reason, please forgive me if I diverge a bit from my assigned topic and discuss these issues that we confront everyday.

The theme of this event is enthralling. It arouses interest and provokes discussion about the real state of our country under President Duterte. So ano na? So ano nga ba ang nangyari sa loob ng isang taon? We are here not only to ask that question, but to look beyond the veil of what this present government would have us believe - that this has been a good year. They would have us believe that the year that has passed was a year we can be proud of. And while there were some important gains, thanks to our collective efforts, nothing, in my view, could be farther from the truth.

This government's bloody war on drugs has claimed 8,000 to 12,000 lives based on the different tallies from the government and human rights groups. Many of these deaths, at the hands of extrajudicial killers, remain unsolved. Korean national and businessman Jee Ick Joo was murdered by police inside their own national headquarters in Camp Crame. The Department of Justice (DOJ) downgraded the charges of those accused in the killing of Mayor Rolando Espinosa from murder to homicide. And recently, no less than the President himself ordered the reinstatement of Police Superintendent Marvin Marcos, the police officer who led the team implicated in the killing of Espinosa in his jail cell last year. This is despite the Senate and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) concluding that the death of Espinosa was premeditated and a clear case of extrajudicial killing. For those who still deny that there are state-sanctioned killings, to the EJK deniers, here is your damning proof.

This government anchored its campaign on a single electoral promise - the promise of peace, safety and security for the masses and the common Filipino. This has proven to be a false promise. Instead, it has left thousands dead in its wake, and thousands more shattered and broken. While big-time drug lords such as Peter Lim and accused human trafficker Jack Lam roam free, and the drug trade shows no strategic signs of slowing down.

"Unli-Martial Law"

We have also been threatened with "Unli-Martial Law." Ang tingin ni Presidente Duterte sa Martial Law ay parang "unli-rice." Ang Kongreso naman tila parang isang carinderia. Kahit wala pang order ng Unli-Martial Law, handang-handa na ito ibigay sa pangulo. Straight out of a dystopian novel, Duterte and his apologists want Martial Law to be the new normal. They think Martial Law is a magic antidote that will address all of the country's woes. This government thinks it is a "silver bullet" for delivering peace and order.

Worse, I'm afraid that President Duterte's Martial Law in Min has largely contributed to the growing climate of Islamophobia in the country. The recent survey on the President's declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao said that while 57% of Filipinos support martial rule, the majority also opposed expanding the declaration to the Visayas and Luzon. Ano ang tinuturo nito sa atin? Okay lang ang Martial Law basta para lamang sa Mindanao na tila tinuturin

Source: Senate of the Philippines

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