Women’s rights group condemns persecution of Makabayan reps, supports #DefendLiza campaign

Tanggol Bayi, an association of women human rights defenders in the Philippines, condemns the political persecution mounted by the Duterte regime against the four former Makabayan representatives. We express our support for National Anti-Poverty Commission Secretary Liza Maza. We have worked with her and her office in defining the agenda for urban poor women, especially for women vendors in the informal sector who lack insurance and any form of social protection, as well as in the staunch defense of WHRDs at risk or those under attack.  

Tanggol Bayi asserts that this concerted effort by militarists in the government to persecute the former progressive parliamentarians is part of its scheme and employment of legal offensives against those who uphold people’s rights. Forcing them to surrender under such unjust circumstances is feeding them to the lions, to serve as a spectacle for this regime’s supporters and as a warning to the opposition. It is a form of intimidation and political persecution. The organization noted that this has worsened with the dramatists such as in the person of lawyer Ferdinand Topacio who has offered a bounty for the arrest of the four.

On July 11, 2018, a warrant of arrest was issued against former Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. and National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) Secretary Liza Maza, former Bayan Muna representatives Satur Ocampo and Tedyy Casino, and former Anakpawis representative and former Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) secretary Rafael Mariano on the basis of trumped-up murder charges filed by the Arroyo government in 2008. Legal counsels of the former legislators sought the immediate dismissal of the case. 

We liken this situation to the parading of suspects in the streets, deprived of their civil and political rights and intentionally made vulnerable for show trial. This is a fiesta served especially for government supporters to belittle and accuse the Makabayan 4 on charges with little or no basis, showcasing them to influence public opinion negatively. 

We remind the public that the Makabayan 4 who are being battered by this regime’s media play are public servants who have offered their expertise and lives to the Filipino people. They are strong, courageous activists who never cease to keep the government in check. During their terms, they are among the poorest government officials, yet have never used their position for private gain. It is extremely ridiculous how these can be easily forgotten over cheap, desperate media ploys. On the other hand, we have monsters who have used their position precisely to corrupt and plunder the nation, but are welcomed with open arms as House Speaker.

Tanggol Bayi clarifies that although Gloria Arroyo and Liza Maza are both women, they differ greatly in how they have influenced the situation of women - the former has been an impediment to the fulfillment of women’s rights and have even set up a barrier to prevent the actualization of these basic rights while the latter has worked tirelessly to break down these systemic barriers.

Tanggol Bayi stands with Liza Maza and the three other former Makabayan legislators. We likewise note the hypocrisy of the government to call upon the rule of law when many of the laws have been subverted to be used as an instrument of repression. We call for the Duterte regime to stop this political persecution. As we continue with our work to uphold and protect women’s rights, so will we continue with our support for its advocates and defenders. We thus support the campaign to #DefendLiza.

Reference: Geri Cerillo, Tanggol Bayi Coordinator, 0918-9790580