Women Tell their Stories of Confronting Duterte's War on Drugs

Posted on June 05, 2018

By Marj Ibanez

June 4, Quezon City - Women’s rights are human rights. Women are not just victims but are also agents of change and transformation.

These emerged as key themes in the forum on “Confronting Tokhang: Women’s Narratives of Survival” held on June 4 at the San Alberto Hurtado Hall in Social Development Complex, Ateneo de Manila University.

The forum investigated on the impact of “tokhang” on women who had to carry through with life after their husbands, sons, brothers, and relatives were killed extra-judicially for being suspected as drug users or drug pushers.

“Tokhang” is the term for police operations undertaken mostly in urban poor areas in the name of Duterte Administration’s war on drugs. Due to public criticism, it was temporarily stopped in February this year. However, Duterte recently ordered its resumption under the name “Oplan Double Barrel: Reloaded.”

The forum featured eight case studies prepared by the Gender Impact of Anti-Drug Operations (GIADO) research team of women affected by tokhang.

Ms. Teresita Quintos-Deles, Chair of INCITEGov, noted that women were placed at the front and center of the war on drugs such that “those of us working in women’s groups are immediately and necessarily drawn and involved beyond our means and beyond our immediate experience and capacity to fully understand what was happening.”

Dr. Mary Racelis of the Sociology and Anthropology Department of the Ateneo de Manila University and a member of INCITEGov presented the framework for analysis of the study, including the circumstances when women are victims and the circumstances when women are rights claimants exerting as agencies.

Dr. Racelis reviewed the definition of impunity and the context of human rights, and highlighted the need to find how Filipinos define and see human rights within the context of their everyday lives.

Ms. Eleanor Dionisio, Associate Director and Head of the Church and Society Program of JJCICSI, presented an analysis of the eight cases in terms of the violations experienced by the women, their functions and activities as agents, and what they say they need as short and long term solutions to their situation.

The panel of reactors included Ms. Leah Barbia, officer-in-charge for the Center for Gender Equality and Women’s Human Rights of the Commission on Human Rights; Ms. Jean Enriquez, the Executive Director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific (CATW-AP), and Fr. Flaviano Villanueva of the St. Arnold Janssen Kalinga Center.

Ms. Veronica Villavicencio of PILIPINA and Board member of INCITEGov in her closing remarks thanked the women in the audience who allowed their tokhang stories to be shared. They are women of extraordinary strength and courage.

The forum was organized by INCITEGov, John J. Carol Institute on Church and Social Issues (JJCICSI) and PILIPINA: Ang Kilusan ng Kababaihang Pilipino, with the support of Harnessing Self-Reliant Initiatives and Knowledge (HASIK), Inc. It was attended by close to a hundred participants from the NGOs, church, academe, private and government sectors.