13 July 2020
On the terrorist-tagging of women rights leader Sister Mary John MananzanOur beloved 83-year old Benedictine nun Sister Mary John Mananzan is the personification of the church’s ideal of true service to the poor and the downtrodden. As president of St. Scholastica’s College, a known school for children of elites for 18 years, she brought the school close to the poor masses especially the women. She opened the school to hundreds of poor youth and especially young women through various kinds of support and scholarships. She established numerous programs and institutions to cater to their needs. She was instrumental in the establishment of a hospital in Northern Samar, one of the poorest provinces in the country where people simply die of sickness as the nearest government medical facility is a good six hours away.
She is a recipient of numerous national and international awards and recognition. She was cited by Women Deliver as one of the 100 inspiring persons in the world on the occasion of the 100 years of the International Women’s day celebration in March 2011. Sister Mary John was cited for leading the way in integrating feminist activism into Catholic faith. As Women Deliver stated: “In her groundbreaking career, Mananzan has worked to empower women and to combat injustice and oppression wherever she finds it – whether within the political system, or at the hands of the church.”A staunch women’s rights advocate, and having been in the leadership of women’s coalition Gabriela since its founding in 1984, she championed women’s rights, brought the voices of oppressed and exploited women in the halls of power, earning for herself prominence and acclamation both locally and abroad.
To tag Sister Mary John as a terrorist, with all the above cited accomplishments and contributions to the upliftment of the poor, is preposterous to say the least. Those who did so with their twisted sense of logic, did not do their assignment. Those who did so, may not even have done in their lifetime, a pinch of what MJ has done for the people. There is no other aim in doing so but to silence and stop her at the work she is doing for the poor and especially the discriminated women – a valuable resource this dispensation should be appreciative of instead of being threatened.
But more concerning is the attendant risk to the life of Mananzan of the terror-tag imputation. And with the terror law signed by Duterte, the life of Sister Mary John Mananzan, along with many other women human rights defenders, has been committed to even more danger. The terror law’s patently obscure definition of terrorism could easily be equated as terroristic acts by the law’s anti terrorism council (ATC) composed of non-judicial officials, who are known to readily kowtow to the will of the President. For her track-record of defending human rights or women’s rights and her resolve to call out the anti-people policies of this government, Sister Mary John will surely be on top of the list of the ATC to be surveilled for proscription as a terrorist.
We at Tanggol Bayi, an association of women human rights defenders in the Philippines, condemn this latest assault on one of the most enduring leaders of the Philippine women’s movement and the Filipino people’s movement against tyranny. Duterte and his cabal of “witch hunters” are delusional if they believe that they can silence the likes of Sister Mary John Mananzan. She has lived through the worst of times and not only did Sister Mary John survive, she triumphed.
The Duterte regime should wake up from its fantasy of bearing down on women human rights defenders who are at the forefront of the fight against the criminal policies of this government. People rising up and ending abusive regimes is a historical certainty. It is as sure as the sun rising after the longest and darkest of nights. ###
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Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
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KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties. It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.
Cristina Palabay, Tanggol Bayi Co-convenor, +639173162831
Kiri Dalena, Tanggol Bayi Co-convenor, +639189790580