Three women’s organizations who were at the forefront of the One Billion Rising Campaign early this year joined forces again in launching the One Billion Rising for Justice Philippines.
The big event will kick off on February 14 next year. This time, women’s groups want to highlight the injustice caused by government neglect and inefficiency in disaster preparedness and prevention, which could have saved thousands of lives in the wake of typhoon Yolanda.
As women and their families pick up the pieces in the Visayas and in some parts of Southern Luzon and Northern Mindanao after supertyphoon Yolanda’s wrath, Gabriela, New Voice Company and Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) continue to call attention to their plight to help them start over.
They also held a memorial and solidarity action for the victims. A number of Gabriela members who were victims themselves shared their experiences during the event.
Emma Pedrano from Roxas City recalled her experience during the wrath of Yolanda. “It’s hard to get to the evacuation center, the situation is very chaotic,” she said.
Pedrano also narrated in tears her predicament on how to save her family. Her grandchild was in the hospital at that time due to pnuemonia while the others were in their house.
“I was very worried about my grandchild, because I know the hospital will eventually be reached by the storm surge,” she said. Pedrano narrated that her family sought refuge in a gas station.
“It’s not the devastation of Yolanda that hurts us, it’s the government’s ineptness in helping victims,” added Roxanne Arciaga of Gabriela-Panay.
Arciaga’s sister and niece perished during the typhoon and shared one coffin, because they had no money and have not received any financial assistance from the government. “It hurts that despite government’s big funds, families of typhoon Yolanda victims did not get any financial assistance,” she said.
Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus, who joined the Lingap Gabriela relief operation, expressed anger at the slow response of the government.
“We saw six cadaver bags when we arrived at Tacloban, and it’s already two weeks after the typhoon hit the area,” de Jesus said. The woman legislator was also aghast to see people lined-up for relief packs and withstanding the stench of cadavers. “It is hard to survive, for those who lived,” she said.
While thankful for the outpouring of international support, including the almost US$200,000 raised by women activists under V-Day around the world, Gabriela raised concern over the situation in Tacloban City, which Yolanda survivors cite as akin to martial law.
In the city, several military troops were deployed and a curfew was imposed in the aftermath of the typhoon.
“Sowing fear and anxiety among Yolanda victims should have been the least of the government’s priorities in this most difficult time. We also fear that the situation is distastefully being used by the US government to heighten its presence and practically restore bases in our country,” said Joms Salvador, secretary general of Gabriela.
Organizers of the One Billion Rising for Justice calls the public’s attention on injustice suffered by Yolanda victims.
“Sometimes, because of the impunity of poverty, human rights violations, violence against women and childern, people tend to be desensitized. We need to realize that such situations must not be the norm and that these have to change. We need to act collectively and make our call for justice stronger because things could only get worse when we keep silent and just watch idly by,” Salvador said.