Stories of six Filipino women for justice

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

The book “Six Filipino Women for Justice,” edited by Asuncion David Maramba, is the last in a series on heroes, heroines and heroic personages. The book contains the stories of six women who have been the targets of injustice and have also been defenders of and fighters for justice. While the book focuses on the six women, I found that the six authors were also women who are outstanding in their own craft.

The first story is entitled “Continuing Journey to Freedom” written by Rosario A. Garcellano. It is the story of former senator Leila de Lima about whom Maramba wrote: “… has been victim of injustice most foul. Her case is clearly vindictive on grounds fabricated from the start and crumbling; and yet, the persecution continues.”

A major part of the story is about her incarceration and how evidence was fabricated by the Duterte regime. One of the most moving parts of her story is the narration of the former senator’s extraordinary composure in the face of her hardships. As of this writing, de Lima has been freed.

The next story is “Leni’s Improbable Journey” by Ed Garcia who wrote: “One thing runs through Leni Robredo’s public life. She served our people with all her heart. She gave her best to the most vulnerable in society; she reserved her strength to uplift the least among us.” There is the story of Robredo as the wife of then Naga mayor Jesse Robredo; then, congresswoman of the 3rd district of Camarines Sur and as the vice president of the nation.  The story says, “Even before her first term as member of the House of Representatives had finished, an unexpected invitation came knocking at her door.” Mar Roxas, who was then planning to run for president, visited her to ask her to be his runningmate in the 2016 presidential election. From the initial survey which showed that she had only one percent approval rating, she ended up defeating Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for the vice presidency.

Her tenure as vice president during the term of Rodrigo Duterte is an example of a woman who “…thrives in the heat of battle (who) never thought for a moment of retreat or resignation.” The story of Leni’s unprecedented campaign for the presidency has also served as an inspiring story.

The third story is “The Unstoppable Maria” by Dulce Festin-Baybay. The author says that there are two sides describing Maria Ressa as unstoppable. One side sees her continuous quest for truth and justice, and the other side is her international and local recognition. Her life story includes her early years in St. Scholastica’s to her growing up in the US and finally, her years in the media industry. She headed ABS-CBN News Department and then left to start Rappler with lifelong friends and allies. She became a target of persecution by the Duterte administration and ironically, her courage and perseverance led to her receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, the first Filipino to be honored with this globally prestigious award.

The fourth story, “A Lifelong Activist” on Risa Hontiveros, politician, activist, journalist and media figure, is by Rafael ASG Ongpin. She is a senator of the Philippines and the lone oppositionist in high public office. She was a martial law baby and began her life as an activist during the martial law years. In 1998, Hontiveros co-founded the Akbayan Citizens’ Action Party, a progressive organization. This was composed of democratic socialists, social democrats and socialists. This is the first left of center political party which was accused of being a communist front organization by the Duterte administration.  She is unique in that she is a bourgeoisie mestiza who became a genuine activist and may yet someday run for president.

The fifth story, “A Daring Defender of Justice” by Maria Olivia Tripon is the story of Conchita Carpio-Morales, considered a “formidable defender of justice.” She was a former associate justice of the Supreme Court and upon her retirement was appointed ombudsman by then president Noynoy Aquino. In this position, she indicted former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and sent three sitting senators to jail – Juan Ponce Enrile, Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada. In her last press conference prior to stepping down as ombudsman, Carpio-Morales said, “On my point of view, as far as I was concerned, I was loyal to the rule of law.”

The sixth and final story is “A Babaylan for Our Times” by Neni Sta. Romana Cruz. In Philippine indigenous communities, a babaylan is someone with the ability to mediate with the spirit world and has the gifts of healing, foretelling and insight. This is the story of the journey of Sister Mary John Mananzan, OSB from the cloister to being a street activist and a champion of feminist theology. At one time, she was longtime chair of Gabriela, the militant nationalist organization of Filipino women, named after Gabriela Silang. She is the founder of the globally known Institute of Women’s Studies of St. Scholastica’s College. At 85, she continues to be busy and living a demanding life.

There should be a movement for concerned citizens to buy this book to be donated to every public and private school library to serve as an inspiration for the Filipino youth. The book is available at San Anselmo Publications, Inc. +639175199782, [email protected] or its Facebook page.

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