“Duterte degrades and threatens women”: Women testify at the International Tribunal

[Brussels, 19 September] Women’s voices were at the forefront in the two-day International Peoples’ Tribunal on the Philippines. Testimonies from women human rights defenders and family members of political prisoners or victims of extrajudicial killings, demonstrate the impact of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s policies on women, and how they harken back to earlier repressive eras.  

On the first day of the Tribunal, Joms Salvador, Secretary General of GABRIELA Alliance of Filipino Women, testified that the impacts of misogyny are real for women in the Philippines. “President Duterte’s public statements promote rather than discourage or prevent discrimination against women; they are offensive to women; they are tantamount to verbally abusing women; they harass women; they degrade women, they threaten the lives of women,” she stated. 

Ms Salvador noted that the government’s actions are in contravention of the UN Convention to Eliminate Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and national laws including the Magna Carta of Women and the Women Development Code of Davao.

Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay, who was the first witness to take the stand, compared the current government with that of dictator Ferdinand Marcos and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, sharing figures on drug war killings, media harassment, and number of political prisoners. Ms Palabay testified that Karapatan had documented many cases of torture, frustrated extrajudicial killings, illegal arrests and detention, indiscriminate gunfire and aerial bombings. She noted that the trend of using motorcycle-riding armed assassins is a tactic to evade state culpability in individual cases of extrajudicial killings.

Witness for the prosecution Jimmylisa Badayos’s testimony verified Ms Palabay’s assessment. Ms Badayos is the daughter of Jimmy Badayos, victim of enforced disappearance in 1990s, and of Elisa Badayos, a woman human rights defender killed by armed assailants in 2017 during a fact-finding mission in Negros into violations committed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and private militia.

Ms Badayos narrated, as a video of the assassination showed behind her, “They shot my mother. My mother fell down. She was able to crawl back. The assailants shot her again. The assailants also shot the driver. After that the others tried to ask for help, they were rushed to the hospital. At the hospital I hugged my mom. I tried to check her pulse. But she was declared dead on arrival.”

In response to the prosecution’s question on who Ms Badayos saw as responsible for the extrajudicial killing of her mother, she stated: “The Armed Forces of the Philippines are responsible for the killing of my mom. She received death threats from them.”

Testimony from Concepcion Opalla of Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (KADAMAY) in Pandi, Bulacan, posited that the government’s policies violate the right to adequate housing. Ms Opalla stated that there are 4.5 million homeless Filipinos, while a 2017 survey found there are 114,409 unoccupied or idle government housing units, abandoned after they were found to be substandard. 

On the second day of the tribunal, another woman witness recounted the conditions of the extrajudicial killing of her husband. "I saw my husband on the floor, on the stretcher. It was him. When I looked up, there were four others on the table, and two women on the floor. There were seven of them. My husband had a headshot wound and a gunshot in the chest. It was confirmed that he had three gunshot wounds," she told the Tribunal.

“The military said it was an 'encounter' [armed encounter between the AFP and the New People’s Army – ed]. It was not. There was no firefight. It was less than five minutes, they said it was like hearing a few firecrackers. The military said there was a 30-minute firefight. But the community did not hear it, they only heard a few gunshots."

The Tribunal verdict is expected to be announced at the end of the day.


Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, +639173162831 (on WhatsApp and Viber) 

Karapatan Public Information Desk, 0918-9790580