GABRIELA USA Celebrates First Year Anniversary Launching National IVOW Campaign

Press Statement
March 29, 2010

Raquel Redondiez, Chair of GABRIELA USA

GABRIELA USA Celebrates First Year Anniversary Launching National IVOW Campaign

Hosts Gabriela Women’s Partylist Nominee, Emmi De Jesus in New York

New York, NY—One year ago, four organizations: BABAE San Francisco, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) New York, Pinay Sa Seattle and Sisters of Gabriela Awaken (SiGAw) Los Angeles came together to establish an overseas chapter of GABRIELA Philippines—the largest progressive women’s alliance in the Philippines. With the depreciating conditions of the Philippine economy and neoliberal political leadership under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, migrants, largely women, have been exiting the Philippines at an alarming rate. This is the impetus for establishing progressive women’s organizing outside of the Philippines. GABRIELA USA was a landmark formation that reflected the quickly changing conditions of the Filipino people with a stern and militant resistance from Filipino women in the diaspora.

One of the major efforts of GABRIELA USA this year was to launch the national IVOW campaign- a comprehensive campaign that addresses violence against women (VAW) as issues of sex trafficking and prostitution, domestic violence, rape, incest, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, sexual discrimination and exploitation, limited access to reproductive health care, and violence as a result of political repression. The campaign, which launched in February 2010, urges people to take a stand and commit to ending violence against women. GABRIELA USA asserts that violence against women is becoming varied in its forms, inflicted by numerous perpetrators from intimate partners, family members to limited access to basic needs of the family and state violence. Under this banner, GABRIELA USA invites communities to acknowledge the inequalities in the lives of women and children as violence to then stand against the problems that are slowing women’s advancement.

In New York, FiRE has accumulated more than 700 signatures and photos of people from all nationalities, class backgrounds, genders and sexual orientations that have vowed to end VAW. FiRE members have traveled up and down the Eastern seaboard to educate Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike about VAW. This past year, FiRE has also strengthened their ties in supporting KABALIKAT Domestic Workers Support Network by organizing different cultural projects and a research project about the conditions of Filipino domestics in NYC. FiRE has seen an impressive growth in membership and will be looking towards building a strong and united Filipino sisterhood against imperialism and VAW.

In San Francisco, BABAE celebrated 5 years of political organizing and carried the iVOW campaign with fervor at their event. Along with college workshops, forums and conferences, they have enlisted several organizations including Kappa Psi Epsilon to the campaign and will continue to spread the word at the upcoming SF Walk Against Rape. BABAE members created, produced and performed their first full theater show that addressed issues of domestic violence, a culture of silence and family dynamics in the Filipino community. BABAE has increase 80% since the formation of GABRIELA USA and look towards building stronger ties to the LGBTQ community there.

Pinay sa Seattle launched the IVOW campaign on Februrary 19, 2010 with with a cultural show also titled IVOW that partnered with Cambodian and Japanese progressive organizations on the themes of violence against women. Audience members participated in the IVOW campaign by writing their vow to end violence against women. The show was a success with over 100 people in attendance and requests that the show be done again. For International Women’s Day, Pinay participated and helped plan a city-wide IWD march that was held on March 6 where women and community members marched with IVOW placards that addressed pressing issues affecting women and children.

Sisters of Gabriela, Awaken (SiGAw), the newest of the four GABRIELA USA member organizations, has also taken strides to expand the Filipino women’s movement in Los Angeles. In the past year, they launched their campaign through internally studying the VAW orientation and collecting photo vows of allies and members. They have conducted interviews with a handful of migrant and working class pinays about their migration experiences and VAW to understand the local manifestations of the campaign in their community. SiGAw has steadily held writing workshops, with help from Professors Lucy Burns and Michelle Cruz Skinner, as well as Melissa Roxas. Roxas is a FilAm activist who survived torture and abduction in the Philippines. SiGAw’s writing resulted in a cumulative show called Diwang Pinay. Its theme was focused on Filipinas migrations stories and their experiences of various forms of violence,  highlighting the violence committed against women in the Morong 43, a group of healthcare workers in the Philippines who are illegally arrested and detained.

GABRIELA USA’s next major efforts will be to organize and mobilize women organizations from different backgrounds and communities to attend the Montreal International Women’s Conference (MIWC) to confer about strategies and issues that can usher in a “Global Militant Women’s Movement in the 21st Century.” Also, GABRIELA USA will join the broad movement to pressure the Obama administration for comprehensive immigration reform with legalization for all.

The need for Filipino women’s organizing continues to be necessary with elections drawing near in the Philippines. Pre-election violence has already risen with the Maguindanao Massacre in Mindanao and continuing human rights violations. As the Philippines looks forward to the end of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s presidential term, Filipino women must come together to demand genuine leaders and government representation from the most oppressed classes. In this spirit, GABRIELA USA fully supports the upcoming candidates for the GABRIELA Women’s Partylist, including Emmi de Jesus and urges all migrants abroad with Philippine citizenship to vote for pro-people candidates.

With the economic crisis steadily worsening, GABRIELA USA commits to the ongoing struggles of Filipino women in the US, especially those who are bearing the brunt of unemployment, lack of access to social services, anti-immigrant policy and discrimination. GABRIELA USA looks forward to building solidarity with other women’s struggles and movements in the US and around the world, in hopes of unity between all working women. We vow to fight violence against women in its various forms. One year of women’s organizing in the US has taught us many lessons, one of which is the relentless punishment of capitalism and imperialism, which gives us strength to stand together to to expand and grow to challenge those problems.

Unite to Fight Violence Against Women!
Vote for GABRIELA Women’s Partylist!
End U.S. Imperialism Now!


WIDF assesses global conditions of women workers

By Sue Davis
New York

Published Mar 19, 2010 8:01 PM

The Women’s International Democratic Federation held a panel discussion on “The Economic Crisis and Women’s Access to Work” at the United Nations on March 10 as part of the 15th anniversary of the Beijing World Conference on Women. Dr. Vinie Burrows, permanent representative to the U.N. for the WIDF, asked the panelists to talk about “how the global economic crisis has fallen the hardest on women.” Berta Joubert-Ceci of the National Women’s Fightback Network of WIDF helped organize the event.

Maritzel  González-Quevido holds picture of<br>Cuban Five political prisoners at discussion<br>of women’s status at UN.
Maritzel González-Quevido holds picture of
Cuban Five political prisoners at discussion
of women’s status at UN.
WW photo: John Catalinotto

Ana Violeta Castaneda, WIDF regional coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean, noted that advancements for women have been limited since Beijing because many repressive governments in the region spend valuable resources on the military, while the vast majority of the people live in poverty.

Valerie Francisco, representing GABRIELA USA, said that employment for women in the Philippines has worsened since the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration took power nine years ago. As a result, Filipino women are migrant workers in 145 countries, most often as low-paid domestic servants with no rights. She invited women to attend a GABRIELA conference in August in Montreal to prepare a women’s platform of action.

Liege Rocha, a member of the steering committee of WIDF in Brazil, reported that the impact of the capitalist crisis was not that heavy in Brazil, though there was some increase in unemployment. While 47 percent of women work (90 percent in service industries), they earn 30 percent less than men. “One of our achievements is establishing the Women’s Department, where women decide on policies for women. We need to take action to end women’s inequality and to be economically independent,” she said.

Pham Hoai Giang, the head of international relations for the Vietnam Women’s Union, prepared a statement read by U.S. activist Merle Ratner. The VWU, established in 1930, is currently fighting trafficking of women and domestic violence and is dealing with the continuing effects of Agent Orange. Giang noted that the impact of the capitalist crisis has not been as severe as in other countries because of government policies devoted to relieving poverty.

Maritzel González-Quevido of the Federation of Cuban Women spoke about how Cuba has been actively implementing key policies adopted at the Beijing conference as part of its overall program to end oppression based on class, gender and race. González reported that women predominate in many job categories — for example, they are 70 percent of health care workers and attorneys.

Invited guest Tiago Vieira, president of the World Federation of Democratic Youth, announced the World Youth Festival that his organization is holding in December 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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In Solidarity with Women Worldwide, GABRIELA USA Launches iVOW on the Centennial of International Working Women’s Day

For Immediate Release

Contact: Raquel Redondiez, GABRIELA USA Chair,,

Voices of Women against Violence Against Women (VAW) to Address
Culture of Silence on VAW within the Filipino Community

On March 6, 2010, GABRIELA USA participated in the World March of Women, joining women from over fifty countries to stand for women’s rights. In the Philippines, over 200 women’s organizations are mobilizing with GABRIELA, sacrificing a day’s wages to demand human rights and a pro-people women’s voice in government.  The calls for the World March of Women are resisting poverty, militarization and violence against women. GABRIELA USA, an alliance of Filipino women’s organizations in the United States, marched with women around the world to call for all communities to take a vow to fight violence against women and children.

In the Philippines, poverty and lack of job opportunities has forced 10% of the population to work abroad in temporary jobs with no security, as undocumented workers or as permanent migrants. The vast majority of them are women who are forced to leave the country despite the increasing number of cases of abuse, maltreatment and mysterious deaths of Filipino women migrants in other countries.

In the 9 years of the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration, state violence has been a main feature on top of the many problems that plague Filipino women. In February 2010, 43 health care workers, 26 of whom are women including a doctor, nurse, midwife, and two pregnant women, were illegally arrested and continue to be illegally detained and tortured. Most of the health care workers volunteer to serve communities with no access to health care due to the high rates of export of the nation’s migrant health care workers. Women usually carry this responsibility and responded to this need by volunteering their time. Clearly, GMA’s administration takes no note of the rising need for health care and of the women responding to this need.

In the US, the reach of the economic crisis affects not only women’s worsening work conditions, or skyrocketing unemployment and financial instability, but is also seen in the exacerbation of domestic violence. Recent studies show rising stress over economic problems resulting in rising rates in reported domestic violence cases. Simultaneously, the budgets for domestic violence services and shelters are being cut back, most notably in California where statewide funds have been completely withdrawn. The attack on women is three fold, in their workplaces, their homes and even by the state.

To respond to these conditions, GABRIELA USA has launched a campaign called Voices Of Women to Fight Violence Against Women. The campaign mobilizes women and men alike to stand up for women’s rights to jobs, reproductive rights, safety, access to health care and education, and self-determination. In a nationwide educational effort, GABRIELA USA organizations in New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles have already initiated community discussions and forums to move communities to sign on. To take a vow to fight violence against women and get involved in this campaign, contact

No to Violence Against Women and Children!
Free the 43 Health Workers in the Philippines!
US Troops Out Now!

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SiGAW in the News: US solon asked to help in release of Morong 43


02/26/2010 | 01:38 AM

Concerned leaders and human rights advocates representing various communities in Los Angeles, California sent a delegation to speak with U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer’s office to seek intervention on the case of the 43 health workers detained by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on suspicion of being New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

In a release, the groups said the delegation met with Senator Boxer’s office to deliver petitions signed by over 500 people and organizations to seek support for the demand to immediately release the health workers, who claim they have been illegally arrested and tortured by the AFP.

The workers, who insisted they were conducting a health training in Morong town, Rizal province, were arrested on February 6 on suspicion of being NPA “explosives trainees.”

Earlier Thursday, the group filed a human rights complaint through their lawyers before the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) against the Armed Forces of the Philippines. (See: ‘Morong 43’ files human rights complaint vs AFP)

Representatives of the delegation urged Senator Boxer to continue her commitment to human rights by supporting the demand for the immediate and unconditional release of the 43 and to stop human rights violations in the Philippines.

The delegation included community leaders Reverend David Farley and Reverend Sandra Richards of the United Methodist Church; Melissa Roxas, who has her own harrowing tale of abduction and torture in the Philippines; Chito Quijano of California Nurses’ Association; Kuusela Hilo of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan–USA and the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA); as well as representatives from Anakbayan Los Angeles, Habi Arts, Sisters of GABRIELA, and Awaken!

In 2008, following a hearing in the US Senate on the human rights situation in the Philippines convened by Sen. Boxer, the US Congress voted to withhold $2 million of 2009 military aid until the Philippine government complied with certain human rights conditions, according to the groups.

They noted, however, that the Philippine government has not made any significant efforts to improve the human rights situation in their country, citing the November 23, 2009 massacre in Maguindanao, which claimed the lives of at least 58 people.

Rev. Richards, Rev. Farley, and Hilo took part in the United Methodist Church California Pacific Pastoral and Solidarity visit to the Philippines last week, as well as in the delegation that visited the medical personnel currently detained in Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal.

Richards said she shared firsthand accounts with Senator Boxer’s office, including the conversations with the families of the detained workers and the forum with CHR chair Leila de Lima.

“Regardless of whether one believes that the 43 health workers are innocent of the charges, it is a fact beyond doubt that their civil and human rights have been violated. They were forced to sit handcuffed and blindfolded for 36 straight hours, were not told with what they were being charged, were not allowed to lie down or sleep, and were fed and toileted by strangers,” Richards said.

Roxas, who accused military agents as the culprits in her abduction and torture while she was with a medical mission in the Philippines in May last year, meanwhile said no human being should have to be detained and tortured for filling in the people’s need for medical assistance in the absence of government efforts.

“The situation is critical. Every day that the 43 health workers are not released, it is one more day they have to endure of pain, fear, and torture,” Roxas stated.—JV, GMANews.TV

FilAms ask Obama to help free ‘Morong 43’ First Posted 11:38:00 02/16/2010 Filed Under: Unrest and Conflicts and War, Crime, rebellion, Justice & Rights, Americas – United States

LOS ANGELES, California, United States—Filipino-American activists wrote US President Barack Obama an open letter asking that the so-called Morong 43, or the health workers who were arrested in Morong February 6 and detained thereafter, be released.

Last week, the delegation of FilAms, including Melissa Roxas, who was also abducted in the Philippines last year, also held a mid-day protest outside the Philippine consulate here to demand the immediate release of the 43, said Bayan-USA vice chair Kuusela Hilo said in a statement.

“We call on the international community to condemn this gross violation of human rights and hold Arroyo accountable for her administration’s gruesome human rights atrocities. We demand that all taxpayer dollars budgeted for US military aid supporting the Philippine military be withdrawn immediately,” said Chito Quijano with the International League of Peoples’ Struggle.

The FilAms, together with Kaparatan chairperson Marie Hilao Enriquez, met with Consul General Mary Jo Aragon to deliver open letters addressed to Obama, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and other elected officials demanding the release of the Morong 43.

The protesters included members of AnakBayan LA, and Habi Arts of Bayan USA, SiGAw! of Gabriela USA, the International League of Peoples’ Struggle, the United Methodist Church, the California Nurses Association, and the Filipino Migrants Center

Terrie Cervas, Vice Chair of Gabriela USA and member of SiGAw said, “We condemn the illegal arrest…(and the denial) of basic rights like access to legal counsel and food.”

There is an ongoing online petition for the Morong 43.

Fil-Am Women Call On Philippine Military to Stop the Torture and Harrassment of Mothers and Pregnant Women

Health Care Workers Should Be Released To Their Families And Communities Who Rely On Them For Health Care Given The Government’s Neglect Of This Basic Need

Contact: Valerie Francisco, Vice Chair, GABRIELA USA,

Fililpino women member organizations of GABRIELA USA across the United States demand the release of the 43 illegally detained healthcare workers. Of the 43 healthcare workers, 26 are women including a woman doctor and midwife, and two are pregnant. Most of the healthcare workers are peasant women from various poor communities that were taking classes on first aid and basic healthcare,  however, the Philippine military justifies the illegal arrest, detainment, and torture by claiming that they are members of the New People’s Army.

For a great majority of poor women and children in the provinces as well as urban poor areas, community healthcare workers provide the only access to basic healthcare, education, and prevention because it is not being provided by the government. The ratio of doctor to patient in the Philippines is pegged by the Department of Health at 1:30,000.

These healthcare workers should be praised and supported for their work as healthcare workers for their local communities.  Instead, they have been illegally detained and maltreated with forms of torture and sexual harassment. During their detainment, they were also denied access to food and bathroom privileges, and subject to various indignities.   They were also blindfolded and handcuffed for days on end.  The military has even defied the Philippine Supreme Court’s writ of habeas corpus order for them to present the 43 community health workers.

“While so many healthcare nurses and doctors have left for greener pastures to the United States and other countries, these community healthcare workers have chosen to stay and serve the poor. Many of them are mothers who have volunteered their time out of their busy schedules from working on their farms and taking care of their children to serve their communities with basic healthcare. They should not be criminalized. The real terrorism that has plagued our country is a broken, fascist government that has denied basic necessities like healthcare to the majority of the people.” stated Raquel Redondiez, chairperson of GABRIELA USA, chapter of GABRIELA Philippines.

GABRIELA USA, a national alliance of progressive Filipina women organizations, stands in solidarity with the members of 43 illegally detained healthcare workers and their families. GABRIELA-USA is an overseas chapter of GABRIELA Philippines, with Babae in San Francisco, Pinay Sa Seattle in Seattle, WA, SiGAw in Los Angeles, CA, and Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment in NYC.





San Francisco: A Pinay Symposium on Violence Against Women

Kappa Psi Epsilon and Babae-GABRIELA USA present…

A Pinay Symposium
Kombating Violence Against Pinays:
Producing Action

A day of workshops, performances, and action as we fight to end violence against women in the U.S., Philippines, and around the world


Saturday, Feb 20, 2010
San Francisco State University – Rosa Parks A-C in the Cesar Chavez Building

1600 Holloway Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94132

this event is FREE with breakfast and lunch provided!

*Childcare available upon request. Please RSVP to*

For more information, contact Jenely – (916) 616-1363 or email

In the eye of the storm, serving the people

Paninindigan Special Issue

December 2009

“A President must be on the job 24/7, ready for any contingency, any crisis, anywhere, anytime… As a country in the path of typhoons …we must be as prepared as the latest technology permits to anticipate natural calamities when that is possible; to extend immediate and effective relief when it is not….The mapping of flood- and landslide-prone areas is almost complete. Early warning, forecasting and monitoring systems have been improved…”

These were the confident words of Mrs. Gloria Arroyo in her State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 27 as she vowed that her government will continue to invest in environment even as, according to her, the country is “safer from environmental degradation”. But on one fateful day in September 2009, all these talk about disaster preparedness was rendered empty by tropical storm “Ondoy”, and a week later by typhoon “Pepeng”, which together brought the heaviest rains, worst flooding and landslides in the country in decades.

This string of calamities served as a grim reminder of the reality of climate change and how vulnerable the country is especially with a government that is obviously ill-prepared to deal with natural disasters. More importantly, it also showed how policies and projects long opposed by the people like large-scale dams and foreign mining do cause death and destruction, and thus the urgent need to institute policy reforms.

But even as we demand accountability from the national government and call for policy changes to avoid a repeat of the enormous devastation of lives, properties and livelihood due to typhoons, we also bring attention to the remarkable spirit of bayanihan (“helping one another”) among Filipinos. For the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and our member-organizations, partners and friends, the slogan “Serve the people” has always been more than just a catchphrase, but a way of life. And this we showed in our swift response to calls for relief and assistance from the victims of flooding and landslides in Metro Manila and other provinces in Luzon.

BALSA and other relief efforts

balsa work1balsa work2balsa work3for more photos, please visit

Through the Bayanihan Alay sa Sambayanan (BALSA), Bayan and its allied organizations have launched relief drives in Ondoy- and Pepeng-affected areas in Metro Manila, Laguna, Pangasinan, and Baguio. With the support of various organizations, relief formations, and institutions, BALSA has so far provided relief goods to around 7,300 families in 13 barangays in three cities and three provinces badly hit by the flooding and landslides. (See Table 1)

balsa table 1

BALSA targeted communities that have yet to be reached by relief efforts from government and other private sector initiatives. It also ensured to reach victims who have stayed in their communities instead of those who have moved to the evacuation centers since many relief drives, both government and private-led, tend to concentrate more on these centers. In this way, BALSA widens the reach of the relief initiatives, avoids the duplication of efforts, and maximizes the goods and services it has generated.

The relief operations in Pangasinan and Baguio were in coordination with Bayan Central Luzon and the Cordillera Peoples Alliance. In San Nicolas, Pangasinan and Baguio, BALSA delivered a total of 130 sacks of rice, 36 boxes of canned goods, and 15 boxes of cooking oil on top of the 2,000 plus relief packs that it allocated for the affected barangays in the said areas. The delivered goods were enough for 2,000 families. Some 13 balikbayan boxes of clothes and blankets from Bayan USA were also brought to the Cordillera region.

On December 19, through the Serve the People Corps of Bayan- Southern Tagalog, BALSA also sent goods and boxes of clothes for the Christmas season for the still flooeded areas in Laguna. Some 1,000 Christmas packs and 70 boxes of clothes were turned over to Bayan-ST.

Aside from the distribution of relief goods, BALSA has also conducted medical missions in selected communities. With volunteer doctors, nurses, and health workers moblizied by the Health Alliance for Democracy and the Samahan Operasyong Sagip (SOS), BALSA provided free medical check-up and distributed medicines to flood victims in Barangay Bagumbayan in Libis, Quezon City and in Barangay San Isidro in San Nicolas, Pangasinan.

BALSA’s relief operations have been made possible through the cooperation and support of formations such as the health sector’s Samahang Operasyong Sagip (SOS), Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR), and Bayan-USA. Contributions for relief goods, mobilization of volunteers, and other forms of support have also come from IBON Foundation, Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, AGHAM Advocates for Science and Technology for the People, Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights, Bayan Muna, Kodao Productions, and others. There were also individual donors such as the Cabaero family of Pampanga.

Among the major sources of support is Bayan’s chapter in the US, which has raised cash donations for Ondoy and Pepeng victims aside from gathering hundreds of boxes of clothes, food, and medicine from across the US. Bayan-USA also sent volunteers to the Philippines to join on-the-ground relief operations. According to Bayan-USA, it has always been the responsibility of Filipino people’s organizations in the US to provide the emergency response needed for their families and loved ones back home.

Big support came from Bayan-Hong Kong and Bayan-Canada which also promoted BALSA in their respective areas. BALSA received the biggest contributions in the Hong Kong relief drive by the Filipino community. Friends and comrades from Europe, particularly in the Netherlands and Italy also gave significant contributions to the relief drive. Workers, union members and migrants in Japan through the Asia-Wide Campaign (AWC) and Migrante Japan were the first to extend international support for the relief efforts of BALSA.

Meanwhile, organizations and institutions in the health sector and their partners formed the Samahang Operasyong Sagip (SOS) as their main platform to respond to the relief and medical needs of the calamity victims. SOS includes the Council for Health and Development (CHD), Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), Alliance of Health Workers (AHW), Community Medicine Development Foundation, All-UP Workers’ Union – Manila, Health Action for Human Rights, Health Students’ Action (HSA), People’s Health Movement – Philippines, Center for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG), and NARS (Association of Community Health Nurses and People’s Health Advocates).

As of this writing, SOS has already provided relief goods to 11,603 families in various areas in Metro Manila as well as in the provinces of Laguna, Pangasinan, and Benguet (in partnership with BALSA). It has also conducted a total of 15 medical missions that served 5,012 patients in calamity-hit areas. (See Table 2)

balsa table2(click to enlarge)

On the other hand, Bayan Muna’s (BM) Serve the People relief drive has, as of Oct. 18, has already reached 7,384 families in six cities in Metro Manila, three towns in Rizal, and one town each in the provinces of Nueva Ecija and Laguna. (See Table 3)

balsa table3

Another major relief project is the Tulong Anakpawis, a coordinated relief effort spearheaded by Anakpawis Partylist in cooperation with Task Force Obrero, Sagip Kanayunan, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Kadamay, Crispin B. Beltran Resource Center, Piston, Pamalakaya, National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates-Youth, Center for Trade Union and Human Rights, Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, Institute for Occupational Health, Safety and Development (IOHSAD) and volunteer individuals from the labor, peasant, urban poor, drivers, vendors, fisherfolk, and other sectors. (See Table 4)

balsa table 4

Coping with trauma

Meanwhile, in addition to the distribution of relief goods, some institutions have began to provide psycho-social therapy services to help calamity victims cope with the trauma caused by the disaster. The Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC), for instance, has given such therapy to children in Barangay Olandes, Marikina City. According to CRC staff, they have observed symptoms of trauma such as lack of sleep, rousing from sleep and catching breath as if drowning, fear of darkness, and fear of water, among the children in typhoon-hit areas.

According to the CRC, the victims, especially the children, need long-term rehabilitation not only in terms of livelihood but also psychologically because the trauma they suffered is unimaginable. In one case, for instance, children and their families had to cling to a large tree for 48 hours in order to survive as they awaited government rescue that never came.

To address the needs of children who suffered from trauma due to Ondoy and Pepeng and to prepare for future disasters, the Task Force Children of the Storm, a network of organizations dealing with children’s rights and welfare and of which the CRC is also a member, will publish a self-help manual. The manual is intended as a simple, easy-to-use handout that anyone can use to help their children cope psychologically during calamities, according to the CRC.

Socioeconomic impact

The twin devastation brought by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng hit the Philippines at a time when the country is still reeling from the impact of the global financial and economic crisis. According to the latest (as of Oct 16) consolidated report of the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), the total cost of damage from the two typhoons reached P21.29 billion. The cost of damage to agriculture accounted for 64.8% of the total, and infrastructure, 35.1%. About 7.43 million were affected in the country’s 12 regions, including Metro Manila[1]. (See Table 5)

balsa table 5Compiled by Bayan using data from the NDCC Situation Report No. 31 dated Oct 16, 2009

Initial estimates from the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) claimed that the macroeconomic impact of the two typhoons is equivalent to about 0.2% of the gross domestic product (GDP)[2]. Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, on the other hand, said that aside from the budget deficit possibly ballooning to P300 billion this year, 2009 economic growth could also fall to 0.4 – 1.4% because of the storms from an earlier forecast of 0.8 – 1.8%, although the downgraded target has yet to be made official[3].

Government acknowledges that current estimates are based on conservative assessment, which did not include the thousands of homes and businesses that were devastated. Nonetheless, such extent of damage and dislocation will surely worsen the social and economic effects of the global crunch on the chronically depressed, backward Philippine economy and the exploited and downtrodden Filipino people.

While government tends to downplay the effects of the recent typhoons on the GDP, with NEDA pointing out that reconstruction will spur domestic growth, the costs are actually much higher considering the still unquantified short- and medium-term effects of losses in jobs and livelihood due to Ondoy and Pepeng (although independent think tank IBON Foundation, in a preliminary estimate, said that Ondoy alone would push at least 276,000 families in NCR, Calabarzon, and Central Luzon into “long-term poverty”).

Note also that official unemployment before the storms ravaged the country was pegged at 7.6% nationwide (National Statistics Office’s July 2009 Labor Force Survey), with the top three highest regional unemployment posted by the NCR (12.1%); Calabarzon (11.1%); and Central Luzon (9.9%) – the regions most affected by the typhoons. These regions together account for 79.9% of the total number of permanently displaced workers due to economic reasons from Jan 2008 to Jun 2009 as well as 69.3% of the total number of families affected by Ondoy and Pepeng. (See Table 6)

balsa table 6 Compiled by Bayan using data from the NSO on unemployment, BLES on displaced workers, and NDCC on affected families by Ondoy & Pepeng

Aside from economic displacements, the poor and marginalized sectors such as the families in the slums as well as villages of small fishers face physical dislocations as government uses the recent flooding in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon to justify the demolition of squatter colonies. According to the Metro Manila Inter-Agency Committee on Informal Settlers (MMIAC), there is an estimated 544,069 households living in different illegal settlements[4], including waterways. The Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), on the other hand, is renewing its push to relocate the lakeshore residents and “illegal settlers” near Laguna de Bay, which could affect about 100,000 households[5].

However, it remains to be seen if government will dismantle not only the shanties of the urban poor but the factories and other huge infrastructure such as business establishments blocking the flow of floodwater. In addition, the experience of Pangasinan residents with the flooding caused by the release of water by the San Roque Dam also challenges the wisdom of decades-old policy of government on building mega-infrastructure to attract foreign investments.

The siltation of the Agno River in the province which causes it to easily overflow and flood nearby towns is also blamed on large-scale mining operations, which the Arroyo administration is aggressively promoting to foreign investors. In Benguet and other Cordillera provinces which were hit by landslides after Pepeng poured heavy rains, large-scale mining operations are held responsible as well for making the region vulnerable to landslides.

Educating and mobilizing the people

Indeed, beyond providing immediate and short-term relief and assistance to calamity victims is the need to ensure that long-term policies are put in place to protect the environment and avoid a repeat of the destruction caused by Ondoy and Pepeng. Towards this, BALSA ensured that its every relief operation is also used to educate the affected communities of the underlying issues behind the calamities and what are the needed reforms to better protect them from future natural disasters.

Bayan-NCR promptly developed and published an education material on Ondoy and Pepeng that comprehensively discusses the relations of the calamities and their impact on the people with government policies favoring big private corporations and allowing the wanton plunder of the national patrimony. A series of public fora on climate change has since been launched by different organizations to help enlighten the people and explain to them the root causes of the disasters. During Bayan’s 8th National Congress, a resolution was passed calling for a nationwide education campaign on climate change aside from a separate resolution expressing sympathy and solidarity with the families of the victims of the flooding and landslides.

The 12-vehicle convoy to Pangasinan and Baguio on Nov. 5 and 6 under BALSA, was not only a relief effort but also a protest caravan against the San Roque dam and foreign mining. In Urdaneta, Pangasinan, a protest rally was held in front of the municipal hall to highlight the accountability of the San Roque Power Corporation (SRPC) and the National Power Corporation (Napocor) in the massive flash flood that affected 38 cities and municipalities. In Baguio City, a short program was held in Burnham Park to discuss the ill-effects of large-scale foreign mining and how it aggravated the effects of Pepeng in the Cordillera region. A similar protest and relief caravan will be held soon in Southern Tagalog.

To be sure, natural disasters will continue to hit the country in the future with drastic climate changes facing the Philippines and the world. But armed not only with the spirit of bayanihan and of serving the people, but most importantly with the firm resolve to struggle for genuine change that will free us from oppression, exploitation and from the harmful effects of an environment degraded and plundered in the name of profits, we will survive and triumph. #


[1] National Disaster Coordinating Council (Oct 16, 2009) NDCC Update, Situation Report No. 31 on Tropical Storm “ONDOY” {KETSANA} Glide No. TC-2009-000205-PHL and Typhoon “PEPENG’ {Parma} Glide No. TC-2009-000214-PHL

[2] BusinessWorld (Oct 7, 2009), Economic planners see 0.2% hit to GDP, Accessible online at

[3] Agence France-Presse (Oct 19, 2009), Philippine economy falls victim to twin storms, Accessible online at

[4] Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 18, 2009), P32B needed to house 500,000 squatter-families, Accessible online at

[5] Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 18, 2009), Legarda, Manda call for relocation of lakeshore residents, Accessible online at