This interview features Tamara Domingo, a student at the University of the Philippines - Manila and the Chairperson of Gabriela Youth - UPM.
How did you become a women's advocate?
I am Tamara Virginia Domingo, the current Chairperson of Gabriela Youth UP Manila, a national democratic mass organization that aims to arouse, organize, and mobilize young women towards the attainment of women’s rights and genuine national democracy. Established in 1994, we aim to eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence against women.
Since 2018, I have been taking part in protests and mobilizations with Gabriela Youth UP Manila in solidarity with the condemnation of the regime’s backward policies and crimes against humanity. The struggle for the emancipation of Filipino women resonates with me as someone who has experienced gender discrimination from a young age, so I formally joined Gabriela Youth UP Manila in 2020, where I served as the Head of the Campaign and Propaganda Committee. As part of the Executive Committee, we spearheaded projects such as “Oyayi: Mga Hele sa Kabataang Lumalaban”, a week-long cultural fundraiser festival for urban poor students, and “Pepe Talks”, a radio show that portrayed the realities of Filipino women. We regularly release militant propaganda and organize educational discussions that raise political consciousness and amplify the campaigns of the oppressed.
As part of the national democratic movement, we recognize that the struggles of all marginalized sectors are all rooted in economic inequality. The emancipation of women can only be brought forth by the emancipation of the masses, which emphasizes the imperative to collectively resist the scourge of imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucrat capitalism. It is only through our collective action towards class liberation may we be able to forge a just and free society for the Filipino people.
What are the most pressing issues that concern women in the Philippines and how do you address these issues?
After ﬁve years of blatant disregard towards the rights, health, and livelihood of the people, the Philippines has been subjected to the worst economic decline since the 1940s. The militaristic lockdown did nothing but push thousands of citizens over the poverty threshold and deploy countless military men, who only function as fascist lapdogs and superspreaders of the virus. Instead of implementing free, eﬃcient, and comprehensive mass testing, contact tracing, and vaccine rollout, the government only focused on solidifying its grip on power through railroading the oppressive Anti-Terrorism Law, and greenlighting projects under the Build, Build, Build (BBB) program that endangers indigent communities. The pandemic response has been nothing but ignorant and ineffective, which only exacerbated existing social disparities in the country.
Filipino women have particularly shouldered the burden of the crisis, which only added to the multiple layers of oppression they are already suffering from due to patriarchal notions reinforced by the macho-fascist administration. Since their chief concern is the health and economic well-being of their families, they are consumed by the anxiety of looming poverty.
Women farmers and indigenous peoples have stood in the frontlines against intensiﬁed development aggression and increased military presence in their lands under the pretext of the pandemic. Meanwhile, urban poor women have no choice but to settle for informal, contractual, or part-time work that fail to provide livable wages, job security, and humane work conditions. The ﬁnancial struggle is such that even young women have been forced to sell nude content so that they may cover the expenses of remote learning.
Furthermore, the increased incidence of violence against women and girls is a matter of utmost concern as victims remain trapped within the homes of their abusers. Sexual harassment in cyberspace has proliferated but strict quarantine protocols have rendered services all the more inaccessible to victims. Meanwhile, men in uniform have been employing a “sex for pass” scheme at checkpoints, and taking advantage of women who sought their assistance, such as the rape-slay of Fabel Pineda.
In the face of reprehensible corruption, we have only heightened our efforts to disseminate propaganda and organize discussions that reﬂect the political situation in the Philippines. Through deep integration with the communities, we have continuously served with and for the people on the basis of their economic needs. We enlighten and are enlightened by the masses themselves regarding their realities and aspirations in pursuit of genuine societal development. We take our rage to the streets so that we may amplify our calls for social and economic prosperity. As the national democratic mass organization for young women, Gabriela Youth has been and always will ﬁght alongside the Filipino masses for the advancement of their welfare.
As a women's advocate, what characteristics are you looking for in a national and local government candidate? How would these characteristics enable the candidate to address the issues that you mentioned?
As poor Filipino households are increasingly made vulnerable by inhumane governance, servant-leaders must rise to staunchly ﬁght for and with the people, with a partiality for the underprivileged. Understanding that they are accountable to their constituents alone, they must maximize the capacity of their oﬃces to advance no other interest but that of the masses. They will strongly oppose the implementation of neoliberal policies that will only beneﬁt the local elite, crony capitalists, and foreign imperialists. Recognizing the limits of the parliamentary struggle, they join the people in registering their calls in the streets and integrate with them in furthering the development of the communities. Leaders of the masses stand ﬁrm against the rising tide of tyrannic coalitions, giving their all in resisting all forms of repressive mechanisms that deny the people of their democratic rights.
As a women's advocate, what policies and programs do you want national and local government candidates to support? Which of these do you want to be prioritized?
With skyrocketing COVID-19 cases and constant encroachment of human rights, the criminal negligence of the current administration is solely to blame for the current strife of the people. Anti-democratic and neoliberal economic policies serve no one but the local and foreign elite, who only weaponize the pandemic to secure their share of State resources. Because the struggles of Filipino women are tied with the struggles of the Filipino masses, the only way to emerge out of the quagmire is for the people to unite and intensify our campaigns that uphold our rights, health, and livelihood.
Our desperate conditions call for the urgent and comprehensive health response to the pandemic instead of mere militaristic measures. Suﬃcient budget must be allocated for the COVID-19 medical response in the 2022 Philippine National Budget, instead of fascist machinery such as the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conﬂict (NTF-ELCAC). Eﬃcient vaccine rollout should be bolstered by free systematic mass testing and contact tracing, which the government has failed to impose even after two years into the pandemic. Health workers must consistently be provided with personal protective equipment and proper pay so that we may ensure the safety of our frontliners during the public health crisis. As the Philippines is one of the few countries in the world that have yet to implement the safe reopening of schools, the government must adhere to minimum health protocols in campuses so as to safeguard the well-being of students, teachers, and staff.
Health and economic measures are not mutually exclusive. The desperate conditions of poor Filipinos call for the urgent distribution of the P10,000 aid in addition to other forms of economic relief, such as the P100 wage relief to workers who have experienced massive layoffs and wage cuts due to the pandemic. We must stand with farmers in their campaign to provide a P15,000 production subsidy and scrap the Rice Liberalization Law, which will only result in lower income for food frontliners. It is time to enact genuine agrarian reform and stand against damaging BBB projects, like dams and extractive mining.
As part of our campaign to protect the welfare of Filipino peasants, we have to tirelessly ﬁght for the sovereignty of the Philippines over the West Philippine Sea and defend local ﬁshermen from Chinese forces. Since imperialist powers have no place in the pro-people agenda, we also call for the urgent abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement to put a stop to the violence and abuse American soldiers have committed against Filipino women, such as the killing of transwoman Jennifer Laude by US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton. Furthermore, we have to vehemently condemn neoliberal economic policies such as the Charter Change and the amendment to the Public Services Act that grant foreign ownership over our public utilities and natural resources. It is in this way that we may also be able to ﬁght against development aggression experienced by indigenous peoples in the hands of multinational corporations and push for their rights to self-determination and their ancestral lands.
Junking the Anti-Terrorism Law and Executive Order 70—the law that established the NTF-ELCAC—is vital to toppling down the pieces that enable the administration to latch onto power. The administration’s tendency to weaponize the law has manifested in the NTF-ELCAC’s disqualiﬁcation case against the sole women partylist in Congress, which warrants the need to defend Gabriela Women’s Partylist and defend Filipino women. Lastly, we have to support the International Criminal Court’s investigation of the “war on drugs” so that the administration may be brought to justice for its atrocities against thousands of victims of extrajudicial killings.
Should candidates with these characteristics and priorities succeed in #Halalan2022, how do you envision the Philippines and the lived realities of Filipino women in 6 years?
At the heart of pro-people governance is the primacy placed on the agency of the masses, thus empowering communities to identify and overcome their issues. It is critical to address the roots of systemic problems in order to inﬂict lasting change. Buoyed by ﬁrm principles, compassionate leaders will encourage Filipino women to recognize their historic role in the struggle, free themselves from violence and discrimination, and have easier access to social services like health and education. Because civil society is directly engaged with the democratic procedures, planning, and implementation of development strategies, the goal towards social equity and justice can be achieved through collective action. Ultimately, we recognize the capacity of people for mutual care and respect so they may contribute to the welfare of the community.