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[Message from Liza Maza]

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This speech was delivered by Representative Liza Largoza Maza of the GABRIELA Women’s Party at the Congress of the Philippines as elements of the military and police waited to arrest her and four other representatives of the progressive political parties Bayan Muna and Anakpawis. Ms. Maza is also Vice-chairperson of the GABRIELA Philippines National Women’s Alliance.

Privilege Speech

By Rep. Liza Maza
Gabriela Women’s Partylist
February 27, 2006

Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues:

I rise today on a question of personal and collective privilege, with much alarm, indignation and defiance over the recent actions that the Arroyo government has taken in the past three days.

On Friday, in the midst of commemorations of the 20th anniversary of the People Power uprising, Malacanang (Presidential Palace) issued Proclamation 1017, placing our country in a State of Emergency. The irony is not lost on us. That we are being placed under Martial Law as we commemorate the ouster of the Marcos dictatorship is not only ironic, it is tragic as well as unforgiveable.

Saturday morning, we awoke to reports of the raid on the newspaper Daily Tribune and the arrest of our fellow representative in this assembly, Anakpawis (workers) Congressman Crispin Beltran who had been rudely picked up, illegally arrested and invited for interrogation by elements of the CIDG.

Call it what you want, Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues, what was done to Representative Crispin Beltran was a testament to the Arroyo government’s lack of respect for the rights of the members of this Congress and of the people in general.

At the end of the press conference by the House Minority members, we learned that we – myself, Representatives Satur Ocampo, Rafael Mariano and Teddy Casino – were slated for arrest outside the Sulu Hotel that evening. Because we knew that what the police and the military wanted to do was unwarranted, illegal and outrightly violates our rights, we deemed it best to look for other ways to exit the place, thus avoiding the Arroyo regime’s minions who were attempting to pick us up illegally that Saturday.

Last night, in the middle of what is now known as the Fort Bonifacio stand-off, Presidential Chief of Staff Mike Defensor announced that the Arroyo government was intent on arresting me and my fellow representatives Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casino and Rafael Mariano. Representative Joel Virador has already been arrested this afternoon.

If to rise in this Congress on behalf of womankind is a crime, so be it.

As the women’s representative even during the 12th Congress, I have been among those who sponsored and fought for two pieces of legislation for women: the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act and the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act. I was also among the authors of the Juvenile Justice Act, which is close to approval by this congress and which will respond to the issue of children who are in prison for crimes. I was also chosen to be part of the bicameral committee which will tackle the said bill.

As representative of the Gabriela Women’s Party, I have persevered, within this congress, in advancing and fighting for legislation which will both bring relief and respond to women’s complaints: the 125 pesos increase in the minimum wage for workers and 3,000 pesos increase in the salary of government employees. Our party also continues to call for the junking of E-VAT (12% tax on everyday necessities) and for price controls on LPG (cooking gas) and kerosene.

On Wednesday, first day of March, women’s month begins. This March 8th, the whole world will celebrate International Women’s Day. This is a day made historic by the principled stand of women workers for wage increases, better working conditions and decent livelihood – calls which remain alive today and which continue to be fought for by womankind and by the people. The tradition of a hundred years of struggle symbolized by March 8th will continue so long as the reasons to struggle remain.

Mr. Speaker, fellow representatives, I am among the many and increasing number of women who are speaking out, who want and are calling for change. Is this a crime? Shouldn’t arrest and punishment be inflicted upon those who implement policies depriving women and their families of their basic rights?

The women’s call for food, shelter, jobs, wages, health and education is just and legitimate. Is this what the Arroyo regime wants to suppress?

Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues, to dream and to struggle for a better society that I can leave my children, our children and the future generations is not a crime. It is a noble cause that all of us, women and men alike, as members of this chamber and as citizens of this country, must espouse, take to heart and act on.

I really might be arrested by the Arroyo regime’s iron hand after this speech, per the announcement last night.

But even then, it will not mean that women will fall silent or will be afraid. Mr. Speaker, fellow representatives, expect the women’s call for basic rights, civil rights and true freedom to continue and indeed grow louder.

The Gabriela Women’s Party and countless women will rise up to defy repression and to trash Proclamation 1017, in defense of our rights. The call I will leave you tonight is the same that women will continue to call out, in the dark of our state: MAKIBAKA, HUWAG MATAKOT! Dare To Struggle, Do not fear…