Women must strive to lead the struggle to make the US-Duterte regime pay for its crimes and advance the national democratic struggle forward!

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The Makabayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan in Southern Mindanao is one with women of all working class, sectors, tribes and nationalities in celebrating this year’s International Working Women’s Day.It is a historical benchmark that all women in the struggle strive to live up to, especially during this time of domestic and global turmoil.

Amid six years of Duterte’s national treachery, unbridled corruption, criminal negligence and fascist dictatorship, the working women’s struggle for class and gender liberation has confronted numerous challenges and setbacks but generally continued to grow and strengthen with the struggle of the entire Filipino people.

In this historic day of struggling women, we give the highest salute to women martyrs of the Philippine revolution and all revolutionary and resistance movements the world over who valiantly fight imperialism and its wars of aggression. We hold our fists high to Sandra “Ka Kaye” Reyes who was martyred after three decades of revolutionary struggle and other women Party cadres, Red fighters and revolutionaries in the region. We especially salute women frontliners and health workers who gave their lives in performance of their duties in this time of the Covid-19 pandemic.

From bringing forth life, rearing minds and contributing to the advancement of labor, women have proven their strength as a productive force in society. Even the capitalist system recognizes this strength, so much so that while it patronizingly praises women, it likewise systematically oppresses and exploits them, along with men of all class and sectors.

In the more than two years of the pandemic, the inherent Philippine semi-colonial and semi-feudal crisis has worsened. Landlords and bourgeois compradors, particularly in Southern Mindanao’s banana plantations, received millions in forms of subsidies and continued to amass personal wealth while the working class, women especially, hardly make ends meet amid risks in their health, widespread job loss, demolitions of their homes, relentless skyrocketing of prices of basic commodities and absent social services and relief. Poverty and hunger are at an all-time high, even as the criminally-negligent Duterte regime continues to waste billions to fund the anti-people war of the fascist Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police and favor his business and political cronies to pocket millions in kickbacks and bribes.

This worsening abject condition is felt most acutely by peasants, most of whom are women, in the rural areas. Their only means of livelihood has become near impossible to maintain as prices of farm inputs such as seeds and fertilizers have soared, bringing down their incomes to next to nothing and simultaneously plunging them deeper into debt. In many areas in the region, for example, the price of the fertilizer urea has increased to P2,500 to P3,000, or almost two-fold before the pandemic, while farmgate prices for farm yields such as corn, rice, root crops, coffee and vegetables either stagnated or steadily decreased. During the most difficult times of strict lockdowns, many buyers and traders in several areas have even stopped buying farm produce.

In effect, most women peasants in many parts in Southern Mindanao are forced to work as farmhands in farms, banana and sugarcane plantations of landlords and rich and middle peasants, despite the slave-level wages and inhumane working conditions. In one sugarcane farm in Bukidnon, a wife and mother of two was forced to work for a measly P116 per day under backbreaking conditions. Worse, when the going gets tough, women farmworkers are the first to be displaced in the agricultural labor force on the arbitrary grounds of their gender.

Many peasant mothers or elder sisters in the region saw their children and younger siblings forced to sacrifice their basic education in order to help earn a living or due to the added rigors and cost of the Duterte regime’s ill-planned blended learning. They suddenly had to be responsible for the formal education of their young for the unforseeable future.

Meanwhile, women workers in Southern Mindanao faced widespread job loss in factories, plantation packing plants and service sector. Those fortunate enough to have continued working during the pandemic suffered under worsened conditions to make up for the labor deficit in the workplace. Despite this, their wages remained low and benefits were cut; their hours and working days depended on the whims of their employers, and were forced to work under riskier situations due to the pandemic.

In Davao City, at the height of the militaristic lockdowns, urban poor women fought to keep their homes from Sara Duterte’s armed demolition teams. Between 2020 and early 2022, hundreds of families in Barangay 76-A in Bucana, Brgy. Los Amigos in Tugbok District and Upper Mahayahay in Matina Crossing were only among those who lost their homes to make way for businesses, coastal roads and other infrastructure projects.

Women, both in the legal democratic and the revolutionary movement, continue to suffer the fascist attacks of the misogynistic Duterte regime. Vicious red-tagging and vilification by the NTF-ELCAC and harassments, arrests and even killings perpetrated by the AFP, PNP and their paramilitaries against civilians and non-combatants are becoming a new normal under the Duterte regime’s counter-insurgency campaign.

Despite these, working women who are in the thick of the struggle find ways to fight back. In the region, we draw inspiration from the experiences of women trade union leaders in banana plantations in the region who demanded wage increase and other benefits this past year, women riders who stood in the front in pushing back against greedy food service businesses, and health workers who demanded higher pay and better treatment as frontliners during the public health crisis.

As movers of history, Filipino women have ceaselessly proven that they are more than capable to lead society forward. The reactionary election this coming May, however, is making us reflect on two kinds of women leaders: those who serve the genuine interests of women and the working class and those who claim to serve the people under vain capitalist catchphrases as “girl bosses” or “women power.”

“Women leaders” like Sara Duterte and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo are political scions of the ruling class. Never in their reactionary political history have they championed the interests and welfare of working women, much less the working class. They are the kind of “women leaders” who find no qualms about allying themselves with the remnants of fascist dictators in order to gain leverage during reactionary elections. They are the entitled heirs of patronage politics held together by nepotism, corruption, and fascism. They are fettered by their greedy class interests and the insatiable thirst for power.

Still, there are other women leaders in the ruling class in the national and local scene who are patriotic and more open to advancing the rights of working women and the Filipino people. Alliances with, and even organizing of these patriotic women leaders must be advanced in the principle of unity and struggle in order to call out and curb their anti-people tendencies and cultivate their democratic advocacies.

The women leaders of the national democratic revolution are the exceptional kind of women leaders. They serve selflessly, even as they struggle to overcome the inherent weaknesses and limitations of their class origins. In the towns, cities and the rural areas of Southern Mindanao, they head or are indispensable members of leadership collectives in revolutionary organizations, sharing command spaces with men in the political line of national democracy.

In NPA platoons and companies of the region, they inhabit military and political tasks and equally shoulder the responsibilities of maintaining initiative amid the brutal rampage of the fascist Duterte regime in the countryside. They are constantly honing their skills and capacities through practice in waging armed struggle, launching campaigns in the agrarian revolution and developing resilient bases. They are deeply aware that the suffering of Filipino women and the masses are rooted in the basic problems of imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism and can only be resolved by waging the national democratic revolution. They are, as in the words of Vladimir Illych Lenin, “women unbound.”

MAKIBAKA-SMR, as the revolutionary organization of Filipino women in the region, vows to continue to arouse, organize and mobilize women in the path of the national democratic revolution. We will struggle to unite all revolutionary, progressive and democratic forces to help ensure that neither a Marcos nor a Duterte will once again hold power and ravage the lives and livelihood of Filipinos. Finally, in the dying days of the US-Duterte regime, we will continue the struggle to hold the fascist dictatorship accountable for its crimes, even past its term and ensure revolutionary justice for all its victims.

Women must strive to lead the struggle to make the US-Duterte regime pay for its crimes and advance the national democratic struggle forward!
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