Press Release
November 8, 2017

On the 1st Southeast Asian Women's Summit
"Misogynistic Politics and the Erosion of Democracy"


Miriam College, Quezon City
8 November 2017

Excellencies, distinguished participants from the civil society organizations, fellow human rights defenders, the organizers of the first Southeast Asian Women's Summit, my sincere congratulations and gratitude for making this event possible. Of course, to Miriam College, particularly the Women and Gender Institute, the teachers and students present, and to my dear favorite La Salle professor, Dr. Soc Reyes, thank you very much for allowing me to convey my support and solidarity with you in this emblematic event.

Greetings from the Detention Facility of the Philippine National Police in Camp Crame.

During these dark and challenging times, the opportunity to share my views with kindhearted people and kindred spirit further inspires me and bolsters my courage. I thank you all for being here to show your support and solidarity towards the achievement of our shared goals: to put an end to the madness of the vindictive Duterte regime--to uphold democracy, justice, and women's welfare and human rights.

As you might have heard last month, the majority of the Supreme Court justices dismissed my petition to nullify my arrest and unjust detention based on trumped-up charges. I am deeply saddened and pained by this decision which legitimizes oppression and political persecution by the State, brought about by Duterte's deeply-rooted vengeance against me.

Today marks my 258th day in detention - all because I dared to earn the ire of a psychopath and misogynistic President who bragged in public that he will make me rot in jail and that I should hang myself because, quote, "the innermost of [my] core as a female is being serialized everyday", unquote. My personal freedom was the price I had to pay for standing up against the killings and injustices of his failed "War on Drugs."

Just think: At least 13 cases have been filed against me since I became Senator--from drug trading, disobedience to summons, disbarment, ethics violations, election cheating, and even terrorism. All were filed within a year since Duterte became President. These charges were unmeritorious and merely fuelled by the President's vow to destroy me.

Still, I remain unbowed because the truth is on my side. I am innocent. That is why my persecutors had to resort to lies, manufactured evidence, and misogynistic remarks to curse and lambast me in public. A massive demolition job had to be set up to spread fake news about me online, with trolls attacking me to destroy my character and credibility, while portraying Duterte as the "Best President in the Solar System."

This is the same President who encourages the bloody War on Drugs which has claimed more than 13,000 lives, targeted, not big-time drug lords, but the poor, the vulnerable and the defenseless. Case in point: As of October this year, 60 children have died because of the anti-narcotics campaign, according to non-government organization Children's Legal Rights and Development Center. As of December 2016, according to news reports, there are 18,000 children who have lost their parents as a result of these brazen killings.

There is, for example, the case of 85-year-old "Lola Trining" who serves as the single parent of seven grandchildren orphaned by extrajudicial killings.

What kind of future awaits them? Do they lose their ability to care about human life? Will they also be vindictive in seeking justice for their parent's death?

Will they even have a future in the first place?

If the people currently in power had a say, they'd likely say, "No. They don't matter anyway. They can go hungry and die. We don't care. Their parents died because they're the scum of the earth, who aren't even qualified to be called part of 'humanity'." As it is was bluntly put by some keen observer of the double-standards of what is being passed off as justice these days, "Sa War on Drugs, mga anak ng mahihirap utas, basta ang mga anak at kaibigan ng Presidente ligtas."

But if people like us here today had a say, the answer would be loud and clear: "Yes. They should have a future - a bright one - along with all the opportunities that other children and other human beings are entitled to. They are, after all, our collective children, for they are part of our humanity. If we could not feel empathy for those who are downtrodden, who are we to call ourselves human beings?"

To me, that's what sets us apart from the beasts who recognize nothing but their own self-interests.

This is the very reason why I have been standing up for what is just and right, even though I know that political power is not on my side. Despite continued vilification and persecution, I will never be cowed into silence. They cannot break my spirit. The growing clamor for accountability and our collective determination as a people will ensure that justice will catch up with this crooked policy of the Duterte regime.

As what my father said when he was still alive: "Never be afraid to fight for what you believe is right."

As a lawyer, I followed the footsteps of a man who instilled in me the lesson that women can be just as good as any man, and even better. Hence, I should design my future, govern my life, and attend to my public duties, ever conscious and self assured that being a woman is not a limitation to what I can contribute to nation-building.

As a woman, we should not allow ourselves to be silenced or be cowed by misogynistic remarks. This is not our fight alone, but fight for our children and their future.

As I said in one of my Dispatches from my detention quarters, we should be inspired by the extraordinary achievement of a 14-year-old Shibby de Guzman, who was recently recognized as one of TIME Magazine's Most Influential Teens of 2017. Even at a young age, she reminds us of the real problem our nation is facing and desires to be an instrument of meaningful change.

But I want to be clear about one thing: I stand for the power and the potential of women to make a great difference in this world in their own respective ways, and in their own respective roles in society; but I do not, for a moment, subscribe to the mentality and attitude that the capacity to feel compassion or the inclination to be a nurturer has anything to do with gender. I will not accept, even impliedly, the excuse that society's glorification of so-called "male machismo" serves to excuse so-called "male locker room" behavior, or some people's tendency to be heartless, or the inability to feel and act with compassion towards others, particularly the less fortunate. Misogyny and sociopathy aren't the hallmarks of a strong man or a decisive leader, but of a sick mind. We should know the difference by now.

This may be a Women's Summit, but it celebrates not just the potential of women for being catalysts and instruments for positive change, but the potential of all human beings for the same. If anything, this Women's Summit is but a way to acknowledge that we - all of us - have to work together to help realize our respective and collective potentials, especially in areas where more work needs to be done. It just so happens that the persistence of violence towards, and discrimination against, women is still one such area.

In that spirit, let us remember that if we are to be faithful to the principles of inclusive democracy, non-discriminatory access to electoral processes including the right to serve in elective offices, then we must protect fellow women from violence and discrimination that create barriers if not hamper their sworn duty as public servant. We should support each other in public offices to rightfully claim our duties and push back tokenism in appointments to government offices, including within institutions. For we do not become gender-equal by having a woman physically sit or in theory be present as a member in inquiries for instance and not allowing her voice to be heard.

To my fellow women, do not be afraid. Let us stand united against all that is evil, all that is unjust, all that is oppressive. Let us continue to stand for liberty, equality, truth, justice, and democracy. Maraming salamat at mabuhay po tayong lahat.

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