This year’s International Women’s Day commemoration led by women’s group Gabriela in Manila was an occasion both to gather pro-women supporters and deliver a parting shot at the sitting president, Benigno Aquino III.
In Liwasang Bonifacio, artists, personalities and politicians went on stage to perform and deliver speeches. There was Dalin Sarmiento, who sought the help of Gabriela in publicizing her complaint against an abusive film director; the activist-nun Sister Mary John Mananzan, who curiously played the fictional Sister Stella L. (a film character from Mike de Leon’s film of the same name that was reportedly loosely based on Sister Mary John herself) in a skit; and television personality Heart Evangelista-Escudero, who represented the vice-presidential candidate and gave praise to Gabriela’s work.
Politicians who spoke to court the audience’s votes included representatives of senatorial candidates Susan Ople and Win Gatchalian, as well as candidates Tito Sotto and, of course, Makabayan’s Neri Colmenares. The Liwasang Bonifacio stage belonged to presidential candidate Grace Poe, who (rightly or wrongly) compared her Supreme Court victory with that of all Filipino women.
All these, however, merely prefaced the “real” Women’s Day protest, when thousands of women and men marched from Liwasang Bonifacio to Mendiola.
In what would be one of the last major protest actions against the current president, Gabriela once more brought to the Palace gates the people’s issues, from the escalating number of cases of physical and sexual violence against women to economic violence–the increasing poverty and landlessness under a regime that only intensified its implementation of neoliberal policies that mainly benefits the few rich and foreign monopoly capitalists.